IRISH-BRED ISLAND OF LOVE RALLIES TO WIN GRADE III, $100,000 SENORITA STAKES BY 2 ¼ LENGTHS AS SHE GETS ONE MILE ON TURF IN 1:35.35
ARCADIA, Calif. (May 7, 2022)–The beaten favorite in two previous stakes, Irish-bred Island of Love put it all together in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Senorita Stakes at Santa Anita, as she rallied off the turn for home enroute to a decisive 2 ¼ length score. Conditioned by leading trainer Phil D’Amato and ridden for the first time by Juan Hernandez, Island of Love got one mile on turf in 1:35.35.
Third, one length off of joint leaders Baby Steps and Sterling Crest at the three furlong marker, Island of Love tipped three-deep at the top of the lane and with her ears pinned, overtook Sterling Crest a sixteenth of a mile out to win impressively.
“Phil told me that she was training really good and try to get a clean break and get her into a nice position to give her an opportunity to start making her move,” said Hernandez, who collected his 14th stakes win of the meet, one shy of recently departed Flavien Prat. “She broke really sharp and after that she relaxed behind the other two horses. I was tracking them and around the quarter pole…I asked her and she just accelerated. She finished really good and she was really comfortable (on) the lead.”
Unbeaten in two starts in Italy as a juvenile, Island of Love was beaten an identical 1 ¾ lengths at a mile on turf in both the Lady of Shamrock on Jan. 30 and the China Doll Stakes March 6.
The actual fourth choice in a field of six sophomore fillies today at 5-2, Island of Love paid $7.80, $4.00 and $3.20.
Owned by R Unicorn Stable, Island of Love now has three wins from five overall starts and with the winner’s share of $60,000, increased her earnings to $99,755.
“Juan just put her in the right position today, gave her a chance to win,” said D’Amato, who rang up his 37th win of the day and moved into a tie with recently suspended Bob Baffert with the most stakes wins at 11. “She kind of had been stuck in a box in the last two (races) and today, no excuses, she answered the call. “I think a mile is well within in her realm. I mean the way she accelerated in the stretch today, I think she can maybe handle a little bit further, but a mile is probably her sweet spot.”
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Irish-bred Sterling Crest pressed the pace throughout and finished 1 ¼ lengths in front of longshot Baby Steps in a big effort. The second choice at 5-2, Sterling Crest paid $3.40 and $2.80.
Ridden from the outside post position six, Baby Steps was sent by Diego Herrera and far outran her 18-1 odds to finish third while returning $6.00 to show.
Lucky Girl, a winner of both the Lady of Shamrock and China Doll Stakes, was rank throughout with Ramon Vazquez aboard and checked in next to last as the 2-1 favorite.
Fractions on the race were 23.92, 47.77, 1:11.24 and 1:23.25.
The Senorita was run as the fifth race on a 10-race Kentucky Derby Day program.