ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 7, 2017)–Thought to be a turf specialist, Watch This Cat handled the transition to a sloppy main track with aplomb, as she took Saturday’s $100,000 Las Cienegas Stakes at Santa Anita by 8 ½ lengths under Corey Nakatani. Trained by Richard Baltas, the 5-year-old mare by Eskendereya got six furlongs in 1:16.41. (Originally listed as a Grade III event at 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course, the ultimate graded status of the Las Cienegas will be determined by the American Graded Stakes Committee in the coming week).
With overnight rains necessitating a switch from turf to dirt, the Las Cienegas was reduced to a field of four with the scratch of morning line favorite Prize Exhibit. Breaking from the outside, Watch This Cat, who was ridden by Nakatani for the first time, was hustled from the gate and surged to the lead while three-deep mid-way around the far turn.
“He (Baltas) told me that wherever she’s placed, just let her get her feet under her and she loved it,” said Nakatani, who registered his second stakes win of the meet. “She didn’t turn a hair out there and she was focused and spot-on…I was just cruising. I pounced on them when she was ready to go.”
Off at 9-5 in the field of older fillies and mares, Watch This Cat, with no show wagering, paid $5.60 and $3.20.
Owned by Harry Bederian, Harry Kamberian and Jack Nakkashian, Watch This Cat, who was claimed five starts back on June 26 for $32,000 and who was off the board in her only other start on dirt, improved her overall mark to 16-4-4-1. With the winner’s share of $60,000, she increased her earnings to $164,220.
“I was excited about (running) today but the only thing was that we didn’t know about the dirt,” said Baltas, who won his second stakes of the meet in partnership with Nakatani. “I just told Corey to let her have her way…He rode her perfectly.”
Chilean-bred Paquita Coqueta, who showed the way from the rail through the first half mile, finished second, 4 ¼ lengths in front of 3-2 favorite Cadet Roni. Off at 2-1 with Flavien Prat, Paquita Coqueta paid $3.00 to place.
Fractions on the race were 21.58, 44.44 and 1:09.57.