ARCADIA, Calif. (March 16, 2016)–With green beers and an abundance of Jameson Irish Whiskey at the ready, Harris Farms’ homebred Velvet Mesquite heads a field of five California-bred or sired fillies and mares set to compete in Saturday’s $100,000 Irish O’Brien Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course.
In keeping with traditional St. Patrick’s Day festivities, Santa Anita will offer three dollar green beers and five dollar Jameson shots from St. Patrick’s Day, Thursday, through this Saturday.
VELVET MESQUITE: Trained by Blake Heap, this 6-year-old mare comes off of one of the most impressive efforts of her career, a better than looked 1 ¾ length win versus state-breds in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint on Jan. 30–her sixth win from 12 tries down Santa Anita’s unique hillside layout. Ridden confidently by Kent Desormeaux, Velvet Mesquite appears primed for another top performance in what will be her 20th career start. With all six of her wins coming down the hill, she has career earnings of $433,446.
QIAONA: Owned by Curt and Lila Lanning, this 6-year-old mare rallied from off the pace to finish a sharp second to Velvet Mesquite in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint here on Jan. 30 and thus, rates second billing in the Irish O’Brien. Trained by Ed Moger, Qiaona rallied to be a close second in this race a year ago and is 6-1-2-1 lifetime down the hillside turf. With seven wins from 32 overall starts, Qiaona has lifetime earnings of $615,643.
NITE DELITE: Off at 9-2 in a first condition allowance down the hill on Feb. 11, trainer Art Sherman’s Nite Delite was an impressive gate to wire winner under Edwin Maldonado, as she earned a career-best 91 Beyer Speed figure in the process. Owned by F. Jack Liebau, this 4-year-old War Chant filly pressed the pace and tired to finish sixth, beaten 3 ¼ lengths, by Velvet Mesquite two starts back in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint Jan. 30. A winner of three of 10 starts, the Irish O’Brien will be her third hillside try.
SMOOVE IT: Owned and bred by Reddam Racing, LLC, this 6-year-old Square Eddie mare was an even fifth, beaten 3 ¼ lengths, by Velvet Mesquite two starts back in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint and was subsequently eighth in the Grade II, one mile turf Buena Vista Stakes here on Feb. 20. Second, beaten a nose, in the Grade III, one mile turf Wilshire Stakes five starts back in April, 2015, Smoove It has ample back class and has two wins from seven tries down the hillside turf. Trained by Doug O’Neill and for the first time she’ll be handled by Flavien Prat.
DEMONICA: In what will be her third start since running a close fifth in last year’s Irish O’Brien, Demonica comes off a much improved fifth in a first condition allowance versus open company at one mile on the main track here on Feb. 12. A 5-year-old mare by First Defence, she was bred by Lee and Susan Searing and is owned by their CRK Stable. Trained by Peter Eurton, the connections are hoping for a dose of déjà vu, as they were victorious in Saturday’s Grade II San Carlos Stakes with Kobe’s Back.
THE IRISH O’BRIEN STAKES IN POST POSTION ORDER WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS
RACE 2 (of 11)
Approximate post time, 1 p.m. PDT
- Demonica – Santiago Gonzalez – 118
- Nite Delite – Edwin Maldonado – 118
- Smoove It – Flavien Prat – 118
- Qiaona – Victor Espinoza – 118
- Velvet Mesquite – Kent Desormeaux – 123
First post time for an 11-race card on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.