KAYLA STRA, TOP FORTITUDE, WINNER: “I think seven furlongs is more like a mile, so I keep that in mind and try not to put too much pressure on them early.
“He can handle it; he’s a strong horse. I think the outside post helped. I was riding so hard my saddle slipped back; I just wanted to make sure no one would get by me.
“I thought there would be two horses on the lead, maybe not the two that I thought but it still helped in how it worked out. I think everything went to plan. When I looked at the form it seemed pretty simple.
(In response to if she’s ever won a stakes race outside of the U.S.) “I was named on a horse for the Melbourne Cup and also for the Caulfield Cup but then, both horses got injured before the race. I won on Navy Shaker in the City of Marion Stakes (2005.)
“I heard Corey (Nakatani on favored Kobe’s Back) say ‘oh (expletive),’ so I knew he hadn’t broken well.
“He’s a tough horse (Top Fortitude), he’s just so solid, even the way he’s built. I knew he would handle the dirt, it’s just the dirt in his face that he doesn’t like. The bigger ones are always the most chicken about that stuff.
“Debbie (Owens, wife of Kory) does a ton of the work in that barn. Her and Kory work so well together that I think they like to put their heads together and I get on every now and then in the mornings, maybe just when Debbie wants a day off.”
VICTOR ESPINOZA, TONITO M., SECOND: “About the three-eighths pole, the horse in front me (Twenty Percent) slowed down and I ran into him, so I had to wait a little bit too much. By the time I found room, it was too late. But he’s an awesome horse. He ran great.”
R. KORY OWENS, TOP FORTITUDE, WINNER: “He had such a bad race the last time he ran, but we always took it that it was due to the fact it was the first time he actually got pummeled by the throwback from dirt. On synthetic, he didn’t get this . . . My post position was such a great spot . . . We hoped they would stagger a little bit, which they kind of did.
“Last race it was like an eight-horse sprawl in front of him and he couldn’t get to go inside or around them . . . I was just hoping he got enough out the race before, which wasn’t a whole lot, and from his works in between, because I know the track the last few days has been acting like it’s not as fast as it was a couple of weeks ago.”
JERRY HOLLENDORFER, TONITO M., SECOND: “It was great (for his first race in the U.S.).”
NOTES: The winning owner/breeder is Richard Owens of Glendale, AZ, who races as Triple AAA Ranch.