Illuminant spurts clear for initial stakes victory, Drefong does not disappoint in Santa Anita return

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

May 31st, 2016


A pair of graded races on the turf topped the Holiday weekend at Santa Anita.

Gamely S. (G1): Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ ILLUMINANT (Quality Road) tracked in second to the top of the lane before spurting clear to a nice victory for trainer Richard Mandella. The four-year-old filly earned her first win of this magnitude, getting nine panels on the firm turf in 1:48 1/5 under Flavien Prat.

Charles Whittingham S. (G2): Red Baron LLC et al’s SI SAGE (Sagebug) took the lead soon after the break and never looked back in posting an 11-1 upset under the guidance of Mike Smith. The Darrell Vienna trainee stopped the teletimer for 1 ¼ miles on the firm turf in 1:59 2/5.

Track Stats

From a total of 46 races held at the Arcadia, California racetrack during the past week, favorites won at a 26 percent clip and the top two betting choices combined for 48 percent of the wins. From 29 frays contested on the dirt oval, nine animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (31 percent), while four of the 17 grassy runs this past week were taken in wire-to-wire fashion (23 percent).

We thought the main oval was fair overall, as we witnessed winners coming from all over the race track. From seven to lead at every call on the dirt oval, six came in sprints with the other trio occurring in two-turn events.

Three of the four winners who won in wire-to-wire fashion on the green came in route races. Staying close to the pace was good for the most part, but it wasn’t a biased turf surface.

Meet Totals












51 (33%)

2nd Choices:


31 (20%)

Turf Wire:


7 (14%)

Dirt Wire:


31 (29%)





Thursday (5/26)

1ST – YOU MISSED IT (Lookin at Lucky) broke well from a tough rail post at first asking, stalked the pace to the top of the lane and finished well to be a nice second in her debut offering. Juvenile filly looks to have some potential and could win next out with slight improvement, and a nice post draw for trainer Doug O’Neill.

Friday (5/27)

5TH – The Carla Gaines-trained COVER SONG (Fastnet Rocket) proved that the grass will be her footing of choice going forward, posting a game tally off the shelf in the downhill dash. The sophomore filly showed little on the main oval in a first try last season, but looked good in defeating the big favorite here.

6TH – MARGIE’S MINUTE (Hard Spun) left little doubt in this sprint race when sitting back in last to the top of the lane and flying home an easy winner over a small field. The Tom Bell trainee is surely one to watch in her comeback race with a showing like this one.

Saturday (5/28)

1ST – AMBITIOUS BREW (Tizbud) got away with a pretty moderate pace early in the grassy dash and the Marty Jones trainee poured it on late in a superb stakes score. The six-year-old gelding had gone off form a touch last season but came back like his best self today, and the California-bred might be in line for a solid second half of 2016.

4TH – ENOLA GRAY (Grazen) bounced out of a scintillating maiden win with a strong stakes victory in a second lifetime race for trainer Phil d’Amato. The three-year-old filly came home fast in a route debut and has the potential to be almost any type with more seasoning.

9TH – TENGA’S RANSOM (Tenga Cat) fell shy at the finish yet again, though the Jeff Mullins trainee always fires and we think he will break through soon despite burning a lot of money to this point.

Sunday (5/29)

3RD – We liked DALMORE (Colonel John) coming into the race and the Keith Desormeaux trainee made us look good with a fine tally in the allowance test. The sophomore colt surely has some ability and got his final five-sixteenths in a sharp :30 4/5.

Monday (5/30)

1ST – PLANE LUCKY (Lucky Pulpit) showed no signs of rust since the layoff, dominating the opener in her first appearance since moving to conditioner Richard Baltas. The sophomore flashed potential as a juvenile and looks set for a good campaign this season.

3RD – Bob Baffert’s DREFONG (Gio Ponti) made his first run since the fall and we liked this effort quite a bit as he drew clear in the lane. The capable and expensive sort is bred to run long and likely on the turf, so he appears to have a lot of options going forward.

5TH – The Peter Miller-trained TEXAS TWO STEP (Two Step Salsa) gobbled up ground late and looked real good visually in a runner-up showing. The five-year-old gelding will be tough in his return with any kind of improvement.

A Look Ahead

Saturday will play host to a pair of Grade 1 races at Santa Anita, with the $400,000 Vanity Mile and $400,000 Shoemaker Mile serving as co-features.