Awesome Baby fought off a determined challenge from runner-up Artemis to win Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 2 ¾ lengths under Mike Smith, getting 1 1/16 miles in a driving rain over a surface labeled wet/fast in 1:41.58.
Trained by Bob Baffert and the second choice in a field of five at 2-1, Awesome Baby broke from the two post and went gate to wire through fractions of 23.44, 46.44, 1:09.80 and 1:34.86.
“The game plan was to break and get a clear lead so we could give her a chance to take a breather,” said Smith. “We weren’t sure that she would go long, she didn’t at (age) two. We got the first quarter in 23 and it was all her after that. I told Bob that I don’t know if it was her turning three or the mud today, but I finished with something left…She was well within herself at the wire and pulled up with a lot of energy.
“I love riding in this stuff. I come from back east. It’s the tracks that are drying out that no one really likes, but these wet/fast tracks, they’re great to ride on.”
A Kentucky-bred by Awesome Again, Awesome Baby came off a front-running score in the Grade II, 6 ½ furlong Santa Ynez Stakes on Jan. 4 and paid $6.20, $3.60 and $2.80.
“She’s been working really well and we’ve been pointing her for this race,” said Baffert. “I was a little bit worried about the off track, but she was very professional today and we were hoping she would run this well. Mike did a great job of keeping her on the lead.”
Owned by Kaleem Shah, Inc., Awesome Baby won for the third time in five starts and banked $60,000 for the win, increasing her earnings to $230,250.
Ridden from the rail by Gary Stevens, Artemis sat second, a length off the winner after a half mile, was unable to get on terms inside Awesome Baby approaching the half mile pole. She challenged the winner again leaving the quarter, but had to settle for second, a half length in front of 3-2 favorite Swiss Lake Yodeler.
Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and the third choice at 5-2, Artemis paid $3.60 and $2.80.
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano and also trained by Hollendorfer, Swiss Lake Yodeler, the lone California-bred in the field, was attentive to the pace but never threatened the winner, finishing third, 7 ½ lengths in front of longshot Saintly Joan.
Swiss Lake Yodeler paid $2.40 to show. Racing resumes with a nine-race card at Santa Anita on Sunday. First race post time is 12:30 p.m., admission gates will open at 10:30 a.m.
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