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February 19, 2012

By BETH HARRIS AP Racing Writer

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) _ Drill defeated American Act by a nose to win the $150,000 San Vicente Stakes (Grade II) and snap a five-race skid on Sunday at Santa Anita, although trainer Bob Baffert isn't rushing him onto the Kentucky Derby trail. An on-track crowd of 11,023 were held spellbound the final furlong and the result was very much in doubt until the photo finish camera established the official order of finish.

Ridden by Martin Garcia, Drill ran seven furlongs in 1:21.28 and paid $9.60 and $5 at 7-2 odds.

American Act, who battled back gamely at the rail under Martin Pedroza, returned $4, while 1-2 favorite Creative Cause was another length back in third. Let's Get Crackin was fourth. There was no show wagering after Smoking G and Captain Obvious were scratched, leaving a field of four to contest one of the most important preps to the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 7.

February 18, 2012

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 18, 2012) – Ellafitz, the 5-year-old mare whom trainer Bob Baffert says is “getting better with age,” demonstrated her gritty resistance Saturday when turning back challenge after challenge as the front-running winner of Santa Anita’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

After 11 starts without a stakes victory, the bay daughter of Tiznow notched her third successive stakes win and second Grade II. But instead of running away from her competitors as she had done twice previously, Ellafitz dealt with them head-on Saturday while timed in 1:42.48.

First, Spirit Seeker took her run at the 4-5 favorite. She became discouraged. Next, third-choice Great Hot made a bid. She became discouraged. Finally, Miss Mittagong flung down the gauntlet. Little progress. Ellafitz and jockey Martin Garcia crossed the wire 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Miss Mittagong and defending champion Vision in Gold, the 3-1 second choice, who dead-heated for the place.

February 17, 2012

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 17, 2012)—Santa Anita Park has announced the launch of a first-ever Santa Anita Derby Madness on-line contest patterned after the wildly popular March Madness basketball bracket model, with winners to be determined according to the outcome of the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, to be run on April 7.

February 16, 2012

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 16, 2012) – Creative Cause, current fourth choice in Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby Future Book Wager and the leader among West Coast contenders, makes his 3-year-old debut on Sunday in Santa Anita’s 71st running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs.

Freshened since running a close third behind Hansen and Union Rags in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5, Creative Cause will face five challengers in the elongated sprint that has served as a formidable launching pad for eight winners of the Kentucky Derby.

According to Mike Harrington, who trains Creative Cause for Heinz Steinmann, the gray son of Giant’s Causeway is more than ready for his first test of 2012 that is likely to lead up to the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles on April 7.

February 15, 2012

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 15, 2012) – After a failed try in her comeback race one month ago, Vision in Gold will have to overtake trainer Bob Baffert’s streaking Ellafitz on Saturday if she is to successfully defend her title in Santa Anita’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

Bet down to 9-10 favoritism following 10 months on the sidelines, Vision in Gold simply could not keep up with Ellafitz in Santa Anita’s Paseana Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 15. As the latter sped to her second consecutive dominant stakes victory, this time by 4 ¼ lengths, Vision in Gold faded to sixth in a field of seven.

February 12, 2012

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 12, 2012) – Irish-bred Indigo River, bet down to 8-5 favoritism, posted her second victory in as many starts over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course Sunday when she outfinished Vionnet by 1 ½ lengths to capture the third running of the $73,950 Sweet Life Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 6 ½ furlongs.

With Joel Rosario in the saddle after being aboard for the bay filly’s victory in her U.S. debut on Jan.

February 11, 2012

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 11, 2012) – British-bred Slim Shadey, whose 13-1 upset victory in a first-level allowance event one month ago halted an 11-race losing streak, turned Santa Anita’s 60th running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Marcos Stakes topsy turvy on Saturday.

With jockey David Flores at the controls, the 4-year-old gelding was never headed while registering a wire-to-wire win in the mile-and-one-quarter turf fixture at odds of 11-1. Slim Shadey gamely held on to edge 13-1 shot Utopian by a head with 4-1 Norvsky another three-quarters-of-a-length back in third. The final time was 2:01.55.

Most stunning perhaps was that Sanagas, the 4-5 favorite, and 2-1 Bourbon Bay, the San Marcos’ defending champion who had been all but unbeatable over the course, never were serious factors. Millionaire The Usual Q. T. was scratched Saturday morning after developing a hoof ailment.