MARLEY’S FREEDOM MUCH BEST AS 3-5 FAVORITE IN GRADE II, $200,000 SANTA MONICA STAKES

MARLEY’S FREEDOM MUCH BEST AS 3-5 FAVORITE IN GRADE II, $200,000 SANTA MONICA STAKES; RIDDEN BY VAN DYKE & TRAINED BY BAFFERT, SHE WINS BY 1 ¼ LENGTHS WHILE GETTING SEVEN FURLONGS OVER A ‘GOOD’ TRACK IN 1:22.34

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 16, 2019)–Reserved while an attentive second early to defending champ Selcourt, heavily favored Marley’s Freedom pounced on the leader turning for home and gained the advantage a sixteenth of a mile from home en route to winning Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes by 1 ¼ lengths under Drayden Van Dyke.  Owned by Cicero Farms, LLC and trained by Bob Baffert, Marley’s Freedom, who was geared down late, got seven furlongs over a “good” main track in 1:22.34.

“Bob told me to be sure to warm her up real good and to get her running away from there,” said Van Dyke.  “She did and we had a good tactical spot.  I was just sitting on her, but I had to get after Selcourt a little early because it looked like she was running pretty easy on the lead.”

(Dating back to a second place finish in last year’s Santa Monica, Van Dyke has now won with four out of his five mounts aboard Marley’s Freedom).

Idle since winning the one turn mile Grade III Go For Wand Handicap with Mike Smith aboard at Aqueduct Dec. 1, Marley’s Freedom was off as the 3-5 favorite in a field of five older fillies and mares and paid $3.40, $2.40 and $2.10.

A winner of four straight races, including three graded stakes, prior to running a close fourth as the 4-5 favorite in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint two starts back on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs, Marley’s Freedom, a 5-year-old mare by Blame, out of the Formal Gold mare Relaxing Green, notched her fifth graded stakes win and has now won six out of her last seven starts.  With the winner’s share of $120,000, she now has earnings of $935,935.  Originally trained by Bob Hess, Jr., she’s made her last six starts for Baffert and her overall mark now stands at 15-8-2-0.

“I’m proud of her and she always shows up,” said Baffert.

In a gallant effort, Selcourt, a lightly raced 5-year-old mare trained by John Sadler, kept to her task late and was clearly second best on the day, finishing 1 ½ lengths in front of longshot Mopotism.  Off at 5-1 with Joe Talamo, Selcourt paid $4.20 and $3.20.

With 3-1 second choice Escape Clause unable to mount a serious rally, Mopotism finished third by 2 ¾ lengths over her Manitoba Canadian-bred rival.  Ridden by Mario Gutierrez, Mopotism was off at 20-1 and paid $3.80 to show.

Two-time Grade I winner Paradise Woods, idle since July 20, was never a factor and checked in last at 5-1 under Joel Rosario.

Fractions on the race were 22.48, 45.07 and 1:09.77.