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SPRING STYLE STUNS 3-10 CHOICE HARMONIOUS IN FRANKEL STAKES
ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 1, 2011) – It seemed such a perfect fit that Santa Anita would rename the 42nd running of the San Gorgonio Handicap to honor the memory of eight-time winner Bobby Frankel, the track’s all-time training leader who died in November of 2009, but Saturday’s running of what has become the Grade II, $150,000 Robert J. Frankel Stakes was anything but fitting.
The shortest priced favorite ever in the mile-and-one-eighth turf competition for fillies and mares, Harmonious, at odds of 3-10, lost by a nose to 6-1 upsetter Spring Style after the multiple Grade I winner’s lunge at the wire fell just short.
With the earlier scratch of Éclair de Lune, second choice on the morning line, the field was reduced to four, and the short field played to the advantage of Spring Style, previously unplaced in five graded stakes races.
Harmonious was placed fourth early by jockey Joel Rosario, seldom more than two lengths off longshot pacesetter Powerofvoodoo. Meanwhile, however, Garrett Gomez had Spring Style positioned just off the flank of the leader as the field breezed through dawdling fractions over a “firm” course: 25.48; 51.31 and 1:16.05.
The prohibitive favorite launched her bid nearing the far turn, but Spring Style, allowed to go slow early, had plenty left in the tank and she dug in as Harmonious drifted out in midstretch. Straightened, Harmonious finished determinedly, got a fortuitous head-bob on the wire, but simply ran out of room.
The final time was 1:51.08, the slowest running of the race in 18 years.
“She (Spring Style) can get a little lazy if she’s up front on her own,” said winning trainer Ben Cecil, “so I told Garrett, ‘Just sit right off somebody if you can,’ and he rode her perfect.”
John Shirreffs, who trains Harmonious, summed up the result in just a few words. “No pace. They went too slow,” he said. Rosario echoed the view. “They went too slow,” he said, adding, “I wish I could have been a little closer, but there was no pace.”
“We went so slow,” said Gomez, “it’s hard to really come by a horse that’s trying to finish. The last three-eighths of a mile we picked it up and came home really solid.”
Go Forth North finished third, 1 ¼ lengths behind Harmonious. Powerofvoodoo checked in another five lengths back.
With no show betting, Spring Style paid $15.80 and $3.60. Harmonious paid $2.10 to show.
Using the closing odds as a barometer, the result was the biggest upset in the 42-year history of the San Gorgonio/Robert J. Frankel. There had been four previous four-horse fields in the 41 runnings, each with an odds-on favorite. Each had won: Frankel’s Megahertz, at 3-5 in 2004; Paseana, at 3-5 in 1992; Kilijaro, at 2-5 in 1981, and Lucie Manet, at 3-5 in 1977.
The victory by 6-year-old Irish-bred Spring Style added $90,000 to her previous earnings of $155,477 while boosting her record to 5-1-2 in 16 starts for Kristina Cecil, the trainer’s wife, and Zillah Reddam.
Multiple Grade I stakes winner Evening Jewel and course specialist Unzip Me head Sunday’s Grade III, $100,000 Monrovia Stakes for fillies and mares at 6 ½ furlongs on turf, the feature race on a nine-race program with first post at 12:30 p.m.