Cicero Farms' Marley's Freedom scored her eighth career win in 15 starts Saturday at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., tracking pacesetter Selcourt under Drayden Van Dyke, then taking command in deep stretch to win the Grade 2 Santa Monica Stakes geared down by 1 1/4 lengths. Mopotism finished third, with Escape Clause fourth and Paradise Woods last in the field of five after scratches of Dream Tree and Amuse.
Marley's Freedom, a 5-year-old mare by Blame out of Relaxing Green, by Formal Gold, bred in Kentucky by Jack Swain III and trained by Bob Baffert, covered seven furlongs on a good track in 1:22.34. She paid $3.40 as the 3-5 favorite and earned the $120,000 winner's share of the $200,000 purse in the race for older fillies and mares.
Selcourt grabbed a clear early lead under Joe Talamo, going the opening quarter mile in :22.48 and the half in :45.07. Marley's Freedom raced in second, just outside of Paradise Wood, who broke a step slowly from the rail under Joel Rosario while making her first start for trainer John Shirreffs.
Van Dyke asked Marley's Freedom to go after the leader on the turn for home, and collared the 2018 Santa Monica winner just inside the eighth pole after six furlongs in 1:22.34. Selcourt was 1 1/2 lengths clear of Moptism at the wire, with Escape Clause another 2 3/4 further back, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Paradise Woods, who was making her first start since July.
All five starters in the Santa Monica were graded stakes winner, including G1 winners Marley's Freedom and Paradise Woods.
An Eclipse Award finalist in the older dirt female and filly and mare sprint divisions, Marley's Freedom was winning for the sixth time in her last seven starts since running second to Selcourt in last year's Santa Monica while trained by Bob Hess Jr. Her only loss only loss for Baffert came when fourth as the 9-10 favorite with a wide trip under Mike Smith in the G1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. She won the G3 Desert Stormer, the G2 Great Lady M, G1 Ballerina and G3 Go for Wand for Baffert after being transferred from trainer Bob Hess Jr.
“Bob told me to be sure to warm her up real good and to get her running away from there,” said Van Dyke. “She did and we had a good tactical spot. I was just sitting on her, but I had to get after Selcourt a little early because it looked like she was running pretty easy on the lead.”
“She flew out of there, she broke like a shot today and we got to set our own fractions,” Talamo said of John Sadler-trained Selcourt. “She was very relaxed and hat's off to the winner. Man, Marley's Freedom has been able to string some really nice races together. I was really proud of my mare today though. Even when Marley's Freedom came to her, she was fighting. I thought we were going to steal it there for a second at the top of the lane.”
Cicero Farms is comprised of Ron and Barbara Perry. Ron Perry wears a Bob Marley T-shirt under his open dress shirt when the late musician's namesake runs. “My T-shirt is indeed a tradition any time she runs,” Ron Perry said. “Two years ago I traded a gentleman in a bar in Oakland for a dress shirt.”
“She (Marley's Freedom) is amazing,” Barbara Perry said. “She's just is a gift from God, she's so sweet and so much fun to be around and she just lays it down every time she runs.”
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