SUTHERLAND STRIKES AGAIN IN EL ENCINO STAKES, AND IT'S PRETTY UNUSUAL

ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 17, 2010) – Jockey Chantal Sutherland, who won her first graded stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday, wasted little time in adding a second Grade II on Sunday when striking with the aptly named 29-1 outsider Pretty Unusual in the 48th running of the $150,000 El Encino Stakes for 4-year-old fillies.

Whereas her victory aboard Amen Hallelujah in Saturday’s $150,000 Santa Ynez Stakes for 3-year-old fillies had not been so very unusual while aboard the 3-1 third choice, her triumph on the Unusual Heat filly was considered a stunner as evidenced by the winning mutuel of $61.40.

ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 17, 2010) – Jockey Chantal Sutherland, who won her first graded stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday, wasted little time in adding a second Grade II on Sunday when striking with the aptly named 29-1 outsider Pretty Unusual in the 48th running of the $150,000 El Encino Stakes for 4-year-old fillies.

Whereas her victory aboard Amen Hallelujah in Saturday’s $150,000 Santa Ynez Stakes for 3-year-old fillies had not been so very unusual while aboard the 3-1 third choice, her triumph on the Unusual Heat filly was considered a stunner as evidenced by the winning mutuel of $61.40.

Sutherland drove Pretty Unusual between horses in midstretch to overtake front-running Freedom Star in the competition at 1 1/16 miles and was able to win convincingly in a final time of 1:43.72.

In negotiating the upset, the 33-year-old Canadian-based jockey, who is riding her third season at Santa Anita, denied the homecoming aspirations of 2008 champion 2-year-old filly Stardom Bound who on the strength of her accomplishments that year, would subsequently bring $5.7 million at sale.

The latter closed rapidly to edge Freedom Star by a head for the place. However, Stardom Bound, a winner of four consecutive Grade I stakes at Santa Anita before departing, was no match for Pretty Unusual in her Southern California return.

The payoffs across the board on the winner were $61.40, $18.40 and $9. Stardom Bound, with regular rider Mike Smith aboard, paid $4.20 and $3.20. The show price on Freedom Star, ridden by Martin Garcia, was $8.80.

As winning trainer Barry Abrams would have told you, the outcome was no surprise. “Absolutely not,” he said. “She’s a good horse. She wasn’t ready to run last time (second in an optional claimer on Jan. 2). Her grandmother (Akinemod) that Jack Klugman owned, was a great horse. She was a champion California horse. I wasn’t surprised.”

Akinemod, the “grandmother” cited by Abrams, absolutely devastated a field of her peers in the El Encino when she was a 4-year-old. The Grand dam of Pretty Unusual won the 1990 running of the event by 18 lengths.

Sutherland may not have been so well versed on the race history. She expressed some surprise when finding herself in a position to win.

“I thought I’d be closer,” she said of the early running when behind six horses. “But it felt like they were going pretty fast going to the first turn. It worked out fine because we had a good position and my filly settled nice.

“When we turned for home, all of a sudden the traffic spread and we were able to get through. I could see Martin Garcia (aboard Freedom Star) on the lead, and I said, ‘Oh, my God, I’m gonna catch him.’ I could hear Mike (Smith on Stardom Bound) coming, but I had a lot left. It’s been a great weekend.”

Stardom Bound was sent off as the 9-5 favorite upon her return to Southern California following 7 ½ months on the sidelines in between third and fifth place finishes in Grade I stakes at Keeneland and Aqueduct, respectively. Her performance on Sunday gave indications that she may be back on an upward spiral.

For Pretty Unusual, she added $90,000 to the coffers of former actor Jack Klugman, Madeline Auerbach and Marie Goda. The payoff raised her career earnings to $249,632 from a record of 2-3-0 in 10 starts. Her only previous stakes win had been achieved in Hollywood Park’s ungraded Melair Stakes last April.

Santa Anita offers a special nine-race program on Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday featuring the Grade II, $150,000 San Marcos Stakes at 1 ¼ miles on the turf. First post is at 12:30 p.m.

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