SWITCH HUMBLES FOES IN SANTA MONICA TO WIN SECOND GRADE I OF MEET AND CONTINUES ASCENT TO TOP OF DISTAFF DIVISION

ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 30, 2011) – Switch continued her ascent in the upper strata of racing’s division for older females Sunday when she humbled five opponents in Santa Anita’s 54th running of the Grade I, $250,000 Santa Monica Stakes for fillies and mares at seven furlongs.

With jockey Joel Rosario gearing her down at the wire, the 4-year-old Quiet American filly defeated 5-year-old mare Gilded Gem by 3 ½ lengths while running the distance in 1:20.70.

Her second Grade I victory at the meet was reminiscent of her 4-length triumph in the opening day La Brea Stakes, whose conditions were identical except that the La Brea was restricted to fillies of the same age as Switch.

The transition from the La Brea to the Santa Monica might not appear to be that much of a change except that results from the past 20 years indicate that the climb from one’s age group can be a daunting challenge.

Switch became just the second filly during the past two decades to successfully complete the double while seven La Brea winners had failed, mostly at short odds. The exception was Island Fashion who won both Grade I events during Santa Anita’s 2003-04 season.

Rosario placed Switch in a perfect position behind dueling leaders Pica Slew and Quisisana on Sunday. After unremarkable early fractions of 22.42 and 45.00, Rosario pushed the button nearing the far turn. On the outside, Switch swept past the front-running pair.

The bay filly, trained by John Sadler for Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable, was at least four lengths in front in midstretch before it became clearly apparent that her work had been done.

At 3-10, her odds where the shortest in race history while matching only those of 2009 winner Ventura. Switch paid $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10. Gilded Gem, who finished 2 ¼ lengths ahead of third-place Sweet August Moon, returned $4.80 and $3.40. Sweet August Moon paid $4 to show.

“I didn’t think it would set up that easy,” Rosario said afterward. “She’s a nice horse and she’s improving more and more every day. John (Sadler) told me to stay close to the pace, and those were the only instructions he gave me. She’s just a really nice horse.”

The victory by the $150,000 yearling purchase was worth $150,000 and elevated her earnings to $782,600 from a 5-3-2 record in 12 starts. Switch has kept exceptional company. The only fillies or mares to beat her in Grade I competition have been Blind Luck, Evening Jewel, Dubai Majesty and the incomparable Zenyatta.

“These are the hardest ones to win, when you’re the heavy favorite,” Sadler said in the winner’s circle.” I thought we’d have a chance to be leader of the division this year, with Zenyatta retiring. Switch is very, very good, as good as anything out there.”

Sadler wasn’t certain what might be next for Switch. He said he was considering Santa Anita’s Grade I, $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on March 12 as well as Oaklawn Park’s Grade I, $500,000 Apple Blossom at 1 1/16 miles on April 15.

“She’ll have six, seven races this year,” said Sadler. “She’s kind of a late-developing filly. We kind of thought early on last year that she would improve with age, and she’s showing that right now.”

In a companion feature, the 7th running of the $78,400 Wishing Well Stakes for fillies and mares, 3-1 second-choice Reba Is Tops stormed from last to first in the field of nine to defeat Catchy Tune by 2 ¼ lengths while running 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course in 107.00.

Ridden by Joe Talamo, Reba Is Tops gained her 14th win in 28 career starts. She has been a remarkable claim. Claimed for $17,500 on July 1, 2007 at Emerald Downs, the 7-year-old mare has earned over $450,000 for the partnership of Kenny Marshall, Gordy Jarnig and Eric Schweiger.

Sunday’s win was her second in succession over the downhill course as she rocketed from over 10 lengths behind in the Wishing Well. Catchy Tune crossed the wire three-quarters of a length ahead of third-place Well Deserved. French-import Givine, the 19-10 favorite, was not a factor while finishing eighth.

The winner, trained by Mark Glatt, paid $8.40, $4.20 and $2.80. Catchy Tune returned $6.80 and $4.60. Well Deserved paid $8.40 to show. The winning purse of $46,080 boosted the lifetime earnings of Reba Is Tops to $454,709 from a 14-6-4 record in 28 career starts.

After three dark days, Santa Anita will resume racing on Thursday with an eight-race program that gets underway at 1 p.m.

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