Great Hot, fresh off the biggest race of her life, a gate to wire score at 9-1 in the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles Santa Maria Stakes on Feb. 16, and Joyful Victory, a well traveled and highly accomplished 5-year-old mare by hot sire Tapit, head a field of six as they each try for consecutive victories in Saturday's Grade I, $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes at 1 1/8 miles.
Brazilian-bred Great Hot, who had been mired in an 0-13 losing streak, drew the rail in the Santa Maria and under the deft control of comebacking Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, took command early and never looked back in the five-horse Santa Maria. In what many longtime observers labeled “Vintage Stevens,” the recently turned 50 year old Idaho native reminded them of so many pace-controlling big money rides from yesteryear. Left alone through fractions of 23.80, 48 and 1:12, Stevens and Great Hot had the race won at the quarter pole and finished up in 1:43.
Joyful Victory, a 5-year-old mare bred in Ontario, Canada, will attempt to become Thoroughbred racing's newest millionaire in the Santa Margarita and follow up on an impressive gate to wire victory of her own in the $400,000 Houston Lady's Classic on Jan. 26 at Sam Houston Race Park. She will again be ridden by 25 year old Rosie Napravnik, widely regarded as the hottest female jockey since Julie Krone.
The complete field from the rail out for Saturday's Grade I Santa Margarita Stakes is as follows:
THE ONLY KEY
Originally raced in Germany, English-bred The Only Key will be trying natural dirt for the first time in the Santa Margarita. Trained by Dean Greenman, 7-year-old The Only Key is in sharp recent form, winning a $20,000 claimer going 1 1/16 miles on turf at Golden Gate Fields on Jan. 13, and running a game second in a first condition turf allowance going 1 ¼ miles on Feb. 15 at Santa Anita.
Owned by former Santa Anita President Ron Charles, a stakes placing in the prestigious Santa Margarita would greatly enhance her value. With a record of 21-4-2-4, she has earnings of $62,643.
BRUSHED BY A STAR
This well-traveled Kentucky-bred mare by Eddington exits a second place finish in the $400,000, 1 1/16 miles Houston Lady's Classic on Jan. 26 at Sam Houston Race Park, deep in the heart of Texas. Off at 7-2 in a six-horse field, she was beaten 4 ¼ lengths by Joyful Victory, who has also shipped west for the Santa Margarita.
Although she got a stalking trip at Sam Houston, she was a gate to wire winner of the Grade II Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park on July 29, and most of her best races have been run in similar fashion. Trained by Eddie Kenneally and owned by Unlimited Equine, LLC, the 5-year-old has $553,031 in earnings from a record of 21-6-7-2.
Like Great Hot, Joyful Victory earned a career high 98 Beyer going 1 1/16 miles in her last start, an impressive gate to wire tally in Sam Houston's Houston Lady's Classic. Off as the 3-2 favorite, she was completely dominant under Rosie Naparavnik and won going away by 4 ½ lengths, getting the distance in 1:42.20.
In a Southern California debut for both horse and rider, Napravnik guided Joyful Victory to a solid second place finish in the Grade I, 1 1/16 miles Zenyatta Stakes on Sept. 29. Joyful Victory has demonstrated ample versatility in the past, winning stakes from well off the pace and while sitting close early. Trained by J.L. Jones, she is owned by Fox Hill Farms, Inc., and is based at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
The leading money earner in the field with $910,679, she seeks millionaire status in the Santa Margarita. Her overall record stands at 16-5-5-3.
Trained by A.C. Avila, Great Hot had lost 13 consecutive races against some of the nation's best fillies and mares at various distances and over various surfaces prior to her upset in the Santa Maria.
Although Stevens was able to steal away on an easy lead at 9-1, there appears to be an abundance of speed signed up Saturday and it would seem unlikely Great Hot will be able to pull off another heist quite so easily. One thing is undisputable—Stevens put the 5-year-old mare in a comfort zone and she may well benefit from such an authoritative confidence builder.
Owned by Coudelaria Jessica, Inc., Great Hot earned a career high 98 Beyer Speed figure in winning the Santa Maria. Her record now stands at 21-5-3-5, with earnings of $537,927.
A disappointing fourth at 9-5 in the Santa Maria Feb. 16, the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Snow Fall will try to turn the tables on Great Hot and run back to her upset win in the Paseana Handicap on Jan. 13.
Hollendorfer, red hot at the moment with 24 wins, two shy of leader Bob Baffert, oversaw a bullet five furlong move of 47 flat, best of 35 at the distance, just six days after the Santa Maria on Feb. 23. Based at Betfair Hollywood Park, Snow Fall will be making her fourth start of the meet and fourth for Hollendorfer on Saturday as she had been based primarily in the Mid Atlantic region with trainer Graham Motion.
Owned by Peter Abruzzo, Taylor Made Properties or Saufley, the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred mare by War Front is 14-4-2-1, with earnings of $197,193.
In her graded stakes debut on Dec. 30, the John Sadler-trained More Chocolate ran a close third in the Grade III Robert J. Frankel Stakes going 1 1/8 miles on turf. The 4-year-old filly by Malibu Moon followed that up with an impressive 1 ¾ length win in the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles La Canada Stakes on Jan. 20.
Under Garrett Gomez, More Chocolate pressed the pace in the La Canada, took command leaving the half mile pole and outran highly regarded Book Review to the wire, beating her by 1 ¾ lengths. With Gomez committed to ride at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, More Chocolate will be handled by Martin Garcia.
Owned by Michael Talla, she has $182,790 in earnings from a record of 8-3-1-1.
The complete field for the Grade I Santa Margarita, to be run as the seventh race on a nine-race program Saturday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: The Only Key, Kevin Krigger, 118; Brushed by a Star, Victor Espinoza, 120; Joyful Victory, Rosie Napravnik, 118; Great Hot, Gary Stevens, 118; Snow Fall, Tyler Baze, 118, and More Chocolate, Martin Garcia, 118.
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