BEJARANO GUIDES MALIBU PIER TO IMPRESSIVE SCORE IN GRADE II SANTA ANA STAKES; IRISH O’BRIEN GOES TO LA NEZ AND PEDROZA

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 19, 2011) – A crafty ride by Rafael Bejarano was instrumental in propelling Malibu Pier to a one-length victory over Turning Top Saturday in Santa Anita’s 44th running of the Grade II, $150,000 Santa Ana Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Hard pressed early by Lilly Fa Pootz, Malibu Pier was allowed to surrender her early lead nearing the far turn before Bejarano urged her to re-rally and outfinish favored Turning Top while running the distance in 1:48.05. Lilly Fa Pootz held third, 1 ¼ lengths back, in the field of six. The turf course was labeled as “good.”

It was the first stakes victory for the daughter of Malibu Moon, who had served notice when rallying for third in the Grade II Buena Vista Handicap at one mile on turf on Feb. 21.

Carla Gaines, who trains Malibu Pier for the Spendthrift Farm of B. Wayne Hughes, said she wasn’t alarmed when her chestnut filly was passed by Lilly Fa Pootz. “She was going so easy, Rafael was just giving her a breather,” commented Gaines.

“I knew No. 8 (Lilly Fa Pootz) was going to try and go to the lead,” Bejarano said. “I tried to make sure my horse was relaxed. At the half-mile pole, I decided to let her relax because we (Malibu Pier and Lilly Fa Pootz) were about six or seven lengths on the lead.

“I gave her a little breather before I came to the turn, and then let her go. When I came to the top of the stretch, I let her shoot to the lead. She showed me a big kick. She was really good today.”

Favored at odds of 19-10 compared to the winner’s 2-1, Turning Top finished well for the place with Joel Rosario in the irons. Lilly Fa Pootz, ridden by Corey Nakatani, saved the show by a neck over Washington Bridge.

Malibu Pier rewarded backers with payoffs of $6, $3 and $2.40. Turning Top paid $3 and $2.40 while Lilly Fa Pootz paid $3.20 to show. Blue Maiden and Church Camp were scratched.

The victory was the fourth in eight starts for Hughes’ homebred. Her biggest career purse of $90,000 lifted her earnings to $252,200.

Under the vigorous handling of jockey Martin Pedroza, La Nez rallied strongly on the extreme outside to capture the afternoon’s secondary feature for California-bred fillies and mares, the $100,000 Irish O’Brien Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs over the track’s hillside turf course.

In gaining the fourth stakes victory of her career, the 4-year-old Storm Creek filly overtook favored Saanneen in the final sixteenth to score by three-quarters-of-a-length in 1:13.70. Logical Single finished third, another half-length back.

The Irish O’Brien marked La Nez’s second start over the unique downhill layout after she had failed to rally in the Grade III Monrovia Stakes won by the streaking Unzip Me on Jan. 2.

“She’s won four $100,000 stakes for Cal-breds, all out of the eight hole,” noted the trainer of La Nez, Eric Kruljac. “She likes pink (referring to the saddle cloth color of post position No. 8).

“I thought she kind of hung a little, and then, boom, she came big,” continued Kruljac. “Martin (Pedroza) was really the difference. He didn’t ride her right off the bat, just kind of coaxed her inside and she came back to him and went along nice. She relaxed for about three-eighths of a mile and that let her have that kick that she has. It was just a great ride by Martin.”

As the third choice in a field of eight, La Nez returned $10.40, $4.60 and $3.60. Saanneen, with Corey Nakatani aboard, paid $3.60 and $3. The show price on Logical Single, ridden by Chantal Sutherland, was $5.

The winning purse of $60,000 increased the career earnings of La Nez to $393,000 from an overall record of 5-3-4 in 16 starts for Class Racing Stable.

The Grade II, $150,000 San Luis Rey Stakes, at 1 ½ miles on turf, and the $100,000 Santa Paula Stakes, at 6 ½ furlongs for 3-year-old fillies, are the featured events on Sunday’s nine-race program that gets underway at 12:30 p.m.

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