ARCADIA, Calif. (May 30, 2016)–Ridden by Flavien Prat, Illuminant sat close to a slow pace and easily repelled a late challenge from heavily favored Wekeela to win Monday’s Grade I, $300,000 Gamely Stakes by one length. Trained by Michael McCarthy and owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Illuminant overtook pacesetter Fanticola approaching the eighth pole en route to a final clocking of 1:48.34 for a mile and one eighth on turf.
“First of all, all the credit has to go to this man, Michael McCarthy,” said Aron Wellman, on behalf of his Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners. “This filly is high maintenance and he’s done a great job. She ran her heart out last time at Keeneland (when third in the Grade I, 1 1/16 miles turf Jenny Wiley Stakes, behind Tepin and Wekeela).
“Winning big races like this at Santa Anita and other tracks around the country is what it’s all about. Without our partners, we wouldn’t be able to do this.”
A 4-year-old Pennsylvania-bred filly by Quality Road, Illuminant was a 4 ½ length winner two starts back in a one mile turf allowance at Santa Anita and was trying a mile and one eighth for the first time in the Gamely. The 5-1 second choice in a field of eight fillies and mares three and up, she paid $12.40, $5.00 and $3.40.
“Yes, I expected to be that close to the pace,” said Prat. “Fanticola was the only speed in the race, so I knew I needed to be right there. My filly has speed too, so I knew it would be ok. I think she improved off her (last race). The turf is a bit softer here and that’s maybe better for her, especially going a mile and an eighth.
“Here at Santa Anita I feel it’s better if you’re closer to the lead. At Keeneland, it’s a bigger turf course and when you come from off the pace there, it’s easier. We work every day to win a race like this, so I’ll really enjoy it and have to thank Michael McCarthy and all the connections.”
Her fourth win from 11 starts, the Gamely represents Illuminant’s first added money victory. With the winner’s take of $180,000, she increased her earnings to $367,650.
“It’s pretty exciting to win a race like this,” said McCarthy, a longtime assistant to Todd Pletcher. “I thought she would run well today. She’s a very honest filly, tries hard and I thought the mile and an eighth would be right up her alley…I didn’t give Flavien a whole lot of instructions before the race. I didn’t think he needed it.”
Mid-pack at the half way point, French-bred Wekeela, who came to Southern California with rave notices due to the fact she was second, beaten five lengths at Keeneland by the highly regarded Tepin in her U.S. debut, moved boldly around the far turn, wheeling three-wide turning for home, but appeared second best on the day with Javier Castellano in to ride for trainer Chad Brown.
“We had a perfect trip and were in a good position the whole way,” said Castellano, America’s Eclipse Award Champion Jockey the past three years. “The pace was slow (24.00, 48.04, 1:12.31 and 1:36.36), but we were right behind the winner turning for home and that filly never stopped.”
Off at 4-5, Wekeela finished three quarters of a length in front of Elektrum and paid $2.60 and $2.40.
Last early, Irish-bred Elektrum kept to her task while wide-out in deep stretch and outran Keri Belle by a head for third under Victor Espinoza. Off at 8-1, Elektrum paid $3.80 to show.
Live racing resumes at Santa Anita on Friday. The track will be open for simulcast wagering on Thursday, with admission gates opening at 10 a.m.