BENCH GLORY OVERCOMES 50-WEEK LAYOFF TO WIN $100,000 IRISH O’BRIEN STAKES DOWN HILLSIDE TURF

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 17, 2013)—Bench Glory sat out long enough to come back fresh and cash in 100,000 lucky charms on Sunday, as she ran down 2-1 favorite Ismene in the final sixteenth of a mile to win Santa Anita’s $100,000 Irish O’Brien Stakes by 1 ¼ lengths, while covering 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside turf course in 1:12.02 under Brice Blanc.

Idle since winning a first condition allowance down the hill on March 30, 2012, the 6-year-old Harris Farms homebred daughter of Benchmark sat third early and was 2 ½ lengths behind Ismene when she hit the dirt crossing at the top of the stretch.

“I liked the way she was training and I know she has some class to her, so we took a shot and got lucky…I’m really pleased,” said winning trainer Sean McCarthy, who picked up his first-ever Santa Anita stakes victory. “She just had some issues going on, aches and pains.

“There were no fractures, no chips, no surgery involved or anything, just a little wear and tear and we decided to give her a break…We ended up giving her about 120 days (off) and it worked out great.”

Off at 15-1 in the eight-horse Irish O’Brien (for older fillies and mares bred in California), Bench Glory got a perfect trip under Blanc, who had ridden her in all nine of her previous starts.

“She did great,” said Blanc, a well-liked native of Lyon, France. “First time out after a long layoff like this, you never know. She liked the course and was ready today. She’s super-special. She put me in the race like she always does and came with that strong kick. I can’t drink beer, so I guess I’ll have some Irish champagne!”

Owner/breeder John Harris was understandably elated following the Irish O’Brien.

“It’s always a tough deal in today’s world but you want to give every horse every opportunity,” said Harris. “We thought we could stop on her and breed her but then we thought we’d bring her back and if she goes alright we’ll keep her going. She did, and it turned out.”

Bench Glory paid $32.40, $12.00 and $6.60. With the winner’s share of $60,000, she increased her earnings to $209,272 from a record of 10-4-1-2.

Multiple stakes winning Ismene, who disappointed off a long layoff to run a well beaten fifth going six furlongs over a wet fast main track on Jan. 25, was trying turf for the first time in the Irish O’Brien, and, according to Mike Smith, she didn’t handle the grass as well as the connections had hoped.

“On dirt, I win,” said Smith. “…She’s so classy, she’ll run over anything, but I think you’ll see the best of her on the dirt. This was the kind of race that I think she’ll get a whole lot out of.

“When she hit the dirt, she really hit her stride. I think you’ll see the real her next time out.”

Ismene, who led until being collared well inside the sixteenth pole, set fractions of 21.48, 43.23 and 1:06.02.

Ismene, who was making her fifth career start, paid $6.00 and $4.60. She finished a 1 ¼ lengths in front of 3-1 second choice Dancingtothestars with Mario Gutierrez up.

Dancingtothestars paid $3.20 and finished a half length in front of Quizzical and Gary Stevens, who was the longest shot in the field at 19-1.

Live racing resumes at Santa Anita on Thursday, with first post time at 1 p.m. For more racing information, visit www.santaanita.com.