ARCADIA, Calif. (May 25, 2015)–Classy Hard Not to Like sat mid-pack early, bided her time at the rail for an eighth of a mile late and was rewarded with a hard fought neck victory under Victor Espinoza in Monday’s Grade I, $300,000 Gamely Stakes at Santa Anita. With Fanticola, ridden by Joe Talamo, dictating moderate fractions, Hard Not to Like, who is trained by Christophe Clement, moved into contention around the far turn and was just up at the wire, getting 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:49.87.
“When she broke and crossed the dirt, everyone was going a different direction so I dropped her all the way down to the rail,” said Espinoza. “I was going to stay there and if it opened, it opened. In the stretch, when I saw the rider in front of me (Talamo) switch to his left hand, I knew that normally a horse will drift out a little. I knew it was my chance and that’s how I got through on the inside.
“I called Christophe (Clement, who remained in New York) and he told me to put her in the middle of the pack and to cover her up and move her to the outside if she got rank…When she crossed the dirt…she was doing it so easily…I left her alone.”
Owned by Speedway Stable, LLC, Hard Not to Like shipped west from Keeneland following a third place finish in the Grade III Jenny Wiley Stakes on April 11. The second choice at 7-2 in a field of 10 fillies and mares three and up, she paid $9.20, $5.40 and $4.40.
“I thought she always looked like a winner, but I thought she was going to be the unluckiest loser of the day,” said Lee Vickers, assistant to Clemente. “He’s got some pair of (shorthand for male anatomy), Victor Espinoza. That was a brilliant ride, but the man’s on fire and he rode with confidence, that’s all I can say.”
A 6-year-old Ontario-Canadian-bred mare by Hard Spun, Hard Not to Like improved her overall mark to 19-7-3-2, and with the winner’s share of $180,000, increased her earnings to $961,671.
Breaking from post position four, Fanticola cruised to the lead under Talamo and set fractions of 24.53, 48.99, 1:13.20 and 1:37.73. After repelling a determined challenge from eventual third place finisher Blingismything a sixteenth out, she couldn’t hold off the rail rally of the winner right on the money.
“Tough beat, a real tough beat,” said Talamo. “She ran her butt off.”
Off at 8-1, Fanticola finished a half length in front of Blingismything and paid $8.20 and $5.60.
Ridden by Tyler Baze, Blingismything sat second to Fanticola throughout and settled for third money, a half length in front of Irish-bred Elektrum. Overlayed at 25-1, Blingismything paid $8.80 to show.
French-bred Danza Cavallo, who shipped in from Keeneland with jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., checked in fifth with no apparent excuses.
Simulcast wagering from around the country will be offered at Santa Anita on Thursday. The track will offer free parking and admission. Live racing resumes on Friday, with first post time at 4 p.m. Admission gates will open for simulcasting at 11 a.m.