ARCADIA, Calif. (March 15, 2009) – Second five times in six previous races over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course, Christiana’s Heat proved best in a three-horse photo finish Sunday to capture the 12th running of the $125,000 Irish O’Brien Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares while running the 6 ½ furlong distance in 1:13.32.

With Michael Baze in the saddle, 5-2 second choice Christiana’s Heat edged Waveline by a nose with 9-5 favorite Bel Air Sizzle another neck back in third as offspring of Unusual Heat continued to be prominent in the stakes race named for a mare who had an affinity for the unique downhill grass layout.

The winner was sired by Unusual Heat as were Bel Air Sizzle, fourth-place finisher Burna Dette and sixth-place finisher Unusual Spirit in the field of six. Lightmyfirebaby, the 2008 winner of the Irish O’Brien, also was sired by California’s No. 1 stallion.

When Lahcotah nosed out favored Only Be Cause in Sunday’s ninth and final race to pay $33.40, Santa Anita realized its 24th Pick Six carryover on the meet’s 49th
racing date. There will be a carryover of $156,646 on Wednesday when racing resumes at the track.

Christiana’s Heat, a 5-year-old gray mare trained by Steve Knapp, returned to her favorite venue Sunday after having faded to sixth behind dead-heat winners Bel Air Sizzle and Onebadkitty in the Feb. 21 Valentine Dancer Handicap at one-mile.

In the Irish O’Brien, she stalked early leaders Gambler’s Justice and Waveline before making a well-timed move inside the sixteenth pole that got her the winning money.

“Six to six-and-a-half furlongs on grass really is her game,” said Baze after riding Christiana’s Heat for the tenth consecutive time. “When she goes long, she doesn’t have the same punch.

“The way it worked out today, I was able to just sit on her. When I looked back, I could see nobody was coming, and that was good. I wanted to make sure we had a target, and we were able to sit chilly until the last sixteenth. When I asked her to run, she had plenty left.”

“She was overdue,” Knapp said. “She always pulls her up when she gets to the lead, and she’s never going to win by a whole lot. Thank God she won today. A lot of the races she got beat in, she pulled herself up.”

Christiana’s Heat returned $7.80, $4 and $2.40 to her backers. Waveline, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, paid $5 and $2.80. Bel Air Sizzle, with Garrett Gomez aboard, paid $2.40 to show.

The victory was worth $75,000 to Albert and Kathleen Mattiyi, of Oxnard, CA, as the career earnings of Christiana’s Heat were elevated to $332,332 from an overall record of 5-9-2 in 24 starts.

In a supporting feature on Sunday, Gallant Son closed strongly under Alex Solis to take the sixth running of the $80,250 Pasadena Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile on turf. The winning time was 1:34.97.

Making his first start on grass, the son of Malabar Gold defeated Smokey Lonesome by three-quarters of a length while the latter nodded Wall Street Wonder by a head for the place. Hype, the 13-10 favorite with leading rider Gomez aboard, was never a factor. He finished last in the field of ten.

Gallant Son’s victory marked the first stakes win at Santa Anita for trainer Frank Lucarelli, who has enjoyed considerable success in the Northwest.

The winner paid $18.20, $9.80 and $5.60. Smokey Lonesome, handled by Victor Espinoza, paid $17 and $8.40 while Wall Street Wonder, ridden by Joel Rosario, paid $4.80 to show.

The win was the fifth in nine races for Gallant Son, who ran seventh in the Oct. 25 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita when finishing 3 ½ lengths behind victorious Midshipman. He earned $46,950 for Chris and Diane Randall to boost his earnings to $162,646.

With his mounts running third and tenth, respectively, in the day’s pair of stakes, Gomez remained two behind the record of 17 stakes victories in a single Santa Anita season shared by Laffit Pincay Jr. (1982-83) and Corey Nakatani (1996-97).

The national leader in purse earnings and the Eclipse Award winner the past two years, Gomez has Eastern riding commitments the next two weekends and will move his tack to Lexington, Ky., for the opening of Keeneland’s season on April 3.

The 39-year-old jockey, however, will have several opportunities to break the Santa Anita record before the current meet closes on April 19.

Gomez will return to ride Pioneerof the Nile in the April 4 Santa Anita Derby as well as several yet undetermined mounts on a card that features four other stakes races. He also is due to be at Santa Anita on Easter Sunday when Keeneland is closed. Gomez is due to have a mount in that day’s Grade III La Cienegas Handicap.

Santa Anita will be dark on Monday and Tuesday before racing resumes on Wednesday with an eight-race card that starts at 1 p.m. The Pick Six will begin with the third race.