ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 15, 2016)–The lone three year old in a field of five fillies and mares, Enola Gray tried turf for the first time and avenged her only career loss with a gutty one length win under Tyler Baze in Saturday’s $100,000 California Distaff Handicap at Santa Anita. Owned and bred by Nick Alexander and trained by Phil D’Amato, the grey daughter of Grazen got 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside turf course in 1:11.57.
Second as the 1-5 favorite against open company in the six furlong Beverly J. Lewis Stakes at Los Alamitos Sept. 11, Enola Gray broke from post position three today and was immediately engaged on the front end by Desert Steel, who broke from the rail under Rafael Bejarano.
“I didn’t necessarily think that filly would go like she did, but it didn’t alter the way my filly ran,” said Baze. “I just wanted to give her a chance to spread her wings and be comfortable. Coming into this race, the more I thought about it, I thought she’d like this firm turf. On the way to the gate, she was having a blast, feeling good and I knew she was gonna run big.”
The second choice in the wagering at 8-5, Enola Gray paid $5.20, $3.60 and $3.00.
A winner of her first three starts by a combined 26 ¼ lengths, Enola Gray now has four wins from five starts and with the winner’s share of $60,000, she increased her earnings to $304,100.
“This was an experiment that paid off,” said Alexander, who is well known in Southern California through his car dealership, Nick Alexander Imports and his radio slogan, “Nick can’t say no.” “Her sire, Grazen, never ran on the grass because he got hurt right before we had a chance. Now this gives us a lot of choices with her, but the Betty Grable (seven furlongs against open company at Del Mar on Nov. 13) is where we’re going next. That was the plan.”
For her part, Desert Steel, who was making her third start of the year, was extra game in deep stretch, and shifted to the three path with a furlong to go and ran down Home Journey by a head for the place. Off at 10-1 with Rafael Bejarano, Desert Steel paid $6.80 and $5.00.
Home Journey, who appeared to have an idyllic trip under Mike Smith, broke from the far outside and sat third behind the top two to the dirt crossing at the top of the lane and appeared well positioned to fight it out with the winner to the wire but had to settle for third money, 9 ¾ lengths in front of longshot Out Of the Ordinary.
Off at 5-2, Home Journey paid $3.60 to show.
Enola Gray’s stablemate, Long Hot Summer, who was favored at 6-5 with Joe Talamo, finished fifth and last with no apparent excuses.
Fractions on the race were 21.84, 43.34 and 1:05.56.