We had some excellent racing on Saturday with, once again, a number of short priced favorites being overturned.
We’ll start with the only Grade 1 of the day, the Santa Margarita Stakes over 1 mile 1/8 and worth $500k. Tara’s Tango (5/2) beat 4/5 shot Taris by a length but the big story was all about the blinkers. Tara’s Tango had won the Santa Maria last time out without blinkers but regular pilot, Martin Garcia, said she had been running in snatches and recommended they be fitted next time out.
Fitting blinkers after a victory is not normally allowed but trainer Jerry Hollendorfer gained permission from the stewards and the rest, as they say, is history. She settled well moved to the outside coming into the stretch and won going away. Next stop called well be the Apple blossom Stakes at Oaklawn in mid-April.
In the other Stakes race on the card, Smoove It won the Irish O’Brien Stakes over the tricky downhill turf course. Smoove It had not won for almost a year and, as a result, was 6/1 at the off. She bagged the inside rail from the off before moving out in the stretch and then cutting back in, hampering the 2/5 hotshot (and multiple course winner) Velvet Mesquite in the process. The stewards called an immediate inquiry but, due to the comprehensiveness of Smoove It’s victory (3 ¼ length winning margin), the places were allowed to stand.
Over at Oaklawn Park, the $900k Rebel Stakes, another important Kentucky Derby Trial, was won by 3/1 shot Cupid, who certainly put an arrow through the Derby aspirations of his opponents such as Suddenbreakingnews.
Cupid broke behind but was pushed up the inside to take command after 2 furlongs and was never passed, kicking clear at the closing stages to win by 1 ¼ lengths, providing the great Bob Baffert with yet another Oaklwan Graded Stakes winner. In truth, the horse ran very green but still won comfortably and could be a major player. Plans for his next run have yet to be determined.
The favorite, Suddenbreakingnews, did not have the best of luck. He was well back at the start from his outside draw and then lost his action when making his move. He finished well into 5th (beaten about five lengths) but was never going to reach the principals. He deserves another chance though his style of running will always require some luck.
In the other two graded stakes on the card (Azeri and Razorback Handicap) we witnessed the seasonal debuts of Untapable and Idolo Porteno respectively. Both ran fine races with Untapable caught close home by Call Pat after, perhaps, an over-confident ride by Florent Geroux and Idolo Porteno tiring close home but still finishing third to Upstart.