BATTLE OF HASTINGS GAINS SECOND STRAIGHT STAKES WIN IN LA PUENTE

ARCADIA, Calif. (April 11, 2009) – British-bred Battle of Hastings, -- whose “light bulb went on” in his last race, according to jockey Tyler Baze – scorched his competition Saturday in Santa Anita’s $100,000 La Puente Stakes for 3-year-olds when rallying to a 1 ½-length victory over Smokey Lonesome in the one-mile turf event executed in 1:34.38.

It was the second straight stakes win for the Jeff Mullins-trained import who took last month’s Grade III Baldwin Stakes at odds of 7-1 after Baze described him as “lost” during a dull United States debut in Hollywood Park’s Grade III Generous Stakes last November.

Battle of Hastings, the 7-5 favorite on Saturday, was all business despite being forced wide early in the field 10. Baze settled him three lengths behind the early leaders. Smokey Lonesome got first run along the rail to take the lead in midstretch before being overtaken on the outside by Battle of Hastings, who was being wrapped up under a hand ride.

“When I hit him left handed, he swapped leads, and just took off,” said Baze. “I’m looking forward to bigger and better things from him.” Said Mullins, “Tyler’s gotten to where he can control him now, and he’s gotten better and better.”

Smokey Lonesome, ridden by Victor Espinoza, held on for second, a head in front of Wall Street Wonder with Joel Rosario aboard. Leedstheway, a stablemate of the winner, was a late scratch.

The winner paid $4.80, $3.20 and $2.60. The payoffs on Smokey Lonesome were $4.40 and $3.20. Wall Street Wonder returned $3.40 to show.

A bay gelding owned by Michael House, Battle of Hastings earned $60,000 to increase his career total to $153,875. After losing his first three starts in England, he won a pair before being imported to this country. The La Puente provided his fourth win in eight starts.

Tyler Baze’s cousin, Michael, reached the winner’s circle one race later after guiding 5-1 shot Champagne Eyes to a wire-to-wire victory in a supporting feature, the $74,950 Santa Lucia Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

A 4-year-old filly trained by Doug O’Neill for Suarez Racing, Champagne Eyes gamely withstood the closing bid of 2-1 second choice Miss Singhsix to score by 2 ¼ lengths in 1:42.88. Theodora, the 4-5 favorite, checked in a well-beaten third, three lengths in arrears of Miss Singhsix.

The winner had been freshened since a fourth-place finish in the Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes on Jan. 13. Her supporters were rewarded with mutuels of $13.40, $5.20 and $2.60. Miss Singhsix, handled by Alex Solis, paid $3.20 and $2.10. The show price on Theodora, with Mike Smith aboard, was $2.10.

The victory was the second in six career starts for Champagne Eyes with the winning purse of $44,730 elevating her earnings to $120,652.

Santa Anita will offer a nine-race program on Easter Sunday with the Grade III Las Cienegas Handicap the featured event. First post is at 12:30 p. m.

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