Anna's Bandit has turned into the kind of horse her connections always believed she could be, but it wasn't as easy as the 5-year-old mare has made it look over the past nine weeks.
“No one has any idea what she's been through. It's crazy,” trainer John 'Jerry' Robb said. “She's just one of a kind.”
Bred and trained by the Laurel Park-based Robb and owned by Gina Rosenthal's No Guts No Glory Stable, Anna's Bandit ran her win streak to five races with a 3 ½-length command performance in Saturday's $100,000 Maryland Million Distaff.
It was the ninth career stakes win for Anna's Bandit, first in the Maryland Million and second in seven days, following her equally dominant triumph in the $157,000 West Virginia Cavada Breeders' Classic at Charles Town.
Anna's Bandit, bred in West Virginia but sired by Maryland stallion Great Notion, was heavily favored in both races – going off at 1-9 in the Cavada and 1-2 in the Distaff. Though Robb was initially hesitant to run in both races as he did last fall, where Anna's Bandit ran third each time, he ultimately deferred to his stable star.
“It's been a stressful week. There was a lot of pressure running her back that quick. I put my name on the line if she didn't run good. But if you look at the numbers, last year I did the same thing. She ran an eight at Charles Town and came back and ran a five here. So that's what I went off of,” Robb said. “How do you not run a 1-2 shot?”
The Distaff was Robb's eighth win in the Maryland Million, tied for fourth-most all-time among trainers.
“Maryland Million is very special to me,” Robb said, “and I don't know of any horse that won them both, the race in West Virginia and the race here. That's very special, too.”
Anna's Bandit showed she was special early on, debuting with a 6 ¾-length maiden special weight triumph May 6, 2016 at Laurel and jumping straight into stakes company. She finished third in the Astoria at Belmont and second in the Debutante at Churchill Downs, the latter in July, before going to the sidelines.
Her next race didn't come for another 14 ½ months, the result of multiple operations to repair leg injuries that went undiagnosed during her formative years. Anna's Bandit returned to race five times in the fall and winter of her 3-year-old year, and became a stakes winner for the first time in the March 2018 Conniver at Laurel.
Overall, Anna's Bandit owns 15 wins and purse earnings of $658,715 from 31 career starts, with other stakes wins coming in the 2018 Down Town Alley and Sadie Hawkins at Charles Town and 2019 Conniver, Original Gold, Timonium Distaff and Sadie Hawkins.
“When she was a weanling on the farm, she broke both sesamoids and nobody ever told me,” Robb said. “As a 2-year-old, I X-rayed her just to check her out and that's how I found them. She never took a bad step in her life. She's amazing.”
Regular rider Xavier Perez shares Robb's opinion. Perez has been aboard for 26 consecutive races dating back to November 2017, and is also her regular morning partner for Robb. All but two of Anna's Bandit's win have come with Perez in the irons.
“I don't know how to explain how I feel with her and what a connection we have because it's just something different that I never felt before,” Perez said. “I get on her every day. I deal with her every morning. I let her stand for 25, 30 minutes at the gap and she loves it. That's her life. Every time I ride her, I'm amazed by her. I always say, 'It's Anna's world and I'm just living in it.' It's all about Anna.”
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