ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 4, 2014)–Off at 5-1, Awesome Baby entered Saturday’s four-horse, Grade II, $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes in the shadow of her stablemate, 4-5 favorite Crushed Velvet, but it was Awesome Baby that posed for pictures, winning the prestigious event for 3-year-old fillies by a half length in gate to wire fashion under Mike Smith, covering six furlongs in 1:16.62.
Crushed Velvet, with Martin Garcia up, broke a bit sluggishly and was third throughout, never menacing the winner or runner up Taste Like Candy.
Awesome Baby, an impressive first-out maiden winner at Del Mar Aug. 4, disappointed as the even money favorite in the Grade I, seven furlong Del Mar Debutante and was distanced when stretched out in the Grade I, 1 1/16 miles Chandelier Stakes Sept. 28.
“Maybe she just bounced off that first race, or tailed off for some odd reason, I don’t know,” said Smith. “Today though, she ran dynamite. She broke really well, was well in hand until I needed to ask her and I just showed her the whip and she kept running. It was a great race out of her today.”
Owned by Kaleem Shah, Inc., Awesome Baby, by Awesome Again, paid $12.60 and $4.40 (no show wagering). With the winner’s share of $120,000, she increased her earnings to $170,250. She now has two wins from four starts.
“I was getting a little bit discouraged with her because she just wasn’t finishing,” said Baffert of the winner. “She’d been working well, but she was always working well before and she’d fall apart, but today, she got out there, and I could tell at about the three-eighths pole this filly was running like she did in her maiden race…That’s why she was the favorite in the Debutante.”
Regarding Crushed Velvet’s disappointing third place finish, Baffert said, “You have to realize she ran really fast first time out. I went easy on her and sometimes they just run like that second time out. But they were going pretty fast and she was like four or five lengths back then she closed.
“She probably would have been better sitting back a little further, but she closed on a 21 and four (opening quarter mile)…and just got tired. I think she’s a really good filly. Sometimes when they run that fast early it knocks them out a little bit, but she’ll be fine.”
Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Taste Like Candy, second in the Grade I, 1 1/16 miles Hollywood Starlet, broke sharply from the rail with Rafael Bejarano but was pinned on the fence throughout by the winner.
“The post position killed us today,” said Bejarano. “I wish I could have had an outside post. She broke really well but we got pressured right away by the three horse (Awesome Baby) and I could tell my horse was scared and couldn’t run freely. I couldn’t get outside so I had to wait. She started to move once she got clear but by that time it was already done.”
The second choice at 6-5, Taste Like Candy was able to angle outside inside the sixteenth pole and was gaining on the winner at the wire. She paid $2.80 to place.
The winner set fractions of 21.76, 44.45 and 1:09.62.