ARCADIA, Calif. (March 18, 2018)–A Hall of Fame nominee in large part due to his tremendous ability on turf, Corey Nakatani befuddled pace experts by overcoming dawdling early fractions as he orchestrated a last-to-first half length victory aboard favored Madam Dancealot in Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Ana Stakes at Santa Anita. Trained by Richard Baltas and owned by Slam Dunk Racing, the 4-year-old Irish-bred filly got a mile and one eighth on turf in 1:49.51.
With Sassy Little Lila making a comfortable lead with Flavien Prat heading into the Club House turn, Nakatani saved every inch of ground while last at the rail, where he stayed until midway around the far turn. Five sixteenths from home, Nakatani found a split two off the rail between Majestic Angel and Lucy De, and from the top of the stretch home, she lengthened her stride to win going away.
“I saw Corey coming up the rail and I said ‘Don’t get her stopped!’ Baltas said. “I never would have thought she could have gone this far when we first got her, but she’s really changed. She still hasn’t won a Grade I, but she’s been knocking on the door.”
Off as the 6-5 favorite in a field of eight older fillies and mares, Madam Dancealot paid $4.60, $3.20 and $2.20 while prevailing over stablemate Midnight Crossing.
“Both fillies ran great for different owners,” said Baltas. “I’m very grateful both fillies fired… It looked like Brice (Blanc, aboard Midnight Crossing) had plenty of horse and he was stalking.”
“There was no concern whatsoever about getting there in time,” said Nakatani, who notched his third stakes win of the meet. “I always get on her and know what she’s capable of doing…She’s capable of laying closer and I knew they would be going slow. I thought it would play into my favor today…
“You stay out of her way, let her do the running and when you call on her, she’ll do what she did today–she’ll explode. I geared her down the last part of it to keep her happy and willing to do the things she needs to do.”
Most recently fifth as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade II Buena Vista Stakes Feb. 17, Madam Dancealot was second in the Grade I American Oaks two starts back and today’s Santa Ana marked her second graded stakes victory in America (to go along with a Group III win in England) and her fifth overall victory from 17 starts. With the winner’s share of $120,000, she now has earnings of $489,775.
Midnight Crossing, a 5-year-old mare who is also Irish-bred, proved second best as she finished a half length in front of Sassy Little Lila. Off at 11-1, Midnight Crossing paid $7.20 and $4.00.
Sassy Little Lila, who set fractions of 24.78, 49.00, 1:12.89 and 1:37.31, finished 2 ½ lengths clear of Lucy De. Off at 2-1, Sassy Little Lila paid $2.60 to show.
The third Irish-bred in the field, Laseen, who was ridden by Kent Desormeaux, broke with her completion, but refused to go with her field shortly after the start and was eased without incident.
Racing resumes with an eight-race card on Thursday. First post time is at 12 noon and admission gates open at 10 a.m.