Merneith Leads 1-2-3 Baffert Finish In Santa Monica Stakes

Ridden for the first time by Edwin Maldonado, longshot Merneith broke running from the rail and took eight rivals gate to wire at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., winning Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes by 2 ¼ lengths while keying a Bob Baffert trifecta.  A 4-year-old daughter of Baffert’s 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Merneith got seven furlongs in 1:22.28.

Quick from the blocks but under a snug hold head and head with stablemate Golden Principal, Merneith was set down three-sixteenths of a mile from home and quickly spurted clear in a no-doubt-about-it effort as Golden Principal and Qahira completed the Baffert tri.

“I had five fillies for the race and I ended up with three and I needed a rider,” said Baffert when asked how it was that Maldonado was named to ride.  “The one thing about Edwin is he’s probably one the best speed gate riders there is.  This filly, every time I run her, I expect to win and she gets beat…I’ve been really surprised she hadn’t done what (she did) today and she showed it.  I’m just really happy for him.  He did a fantastic job getting her out of the gate, she relaxed.

“She looks like American Pharoah to me.  When she came in, she looked almost like a spitting image of him.  I’m glad they (American Pharoah’s progeny) are starting to run now… I was telling (owner Prince Sultan Bin Mishal Al Saud of Saudi Arabia) how high I was on this filly.  Today is the day she finally showed what she has and that was a pretty tough field of horses that she beat.  To win one-two-three, it was nice cheering down the lane.”

Third, beaten 3 ¾ lengths versus sophomore fillies in the G1, seven-furlong La Brea Stakes on Dec. 26, Merneith was off at 9-1 and paid $20.40, $9.20 and $5.80.

“I’m just so happy, it’s another dream of mine to win for Bob Baffert,” said Maldonado.  “It took awhile, but we got it done. … At first she broke good, I looked over and I see Mike Smith (aboard Golden Principal) and he was right next to me and I’m like ‘Oh, what do I do?  Should I let him go or no?’  But it worked out good, Mike stayed off of me and we both relaxed.  Going into the race, Bob was telling me she was doing good and had good works.”

Merneith, who is out of the Flatter mare Flattermewithroses, registered her first graded stakes win and improved her overall mark to 10-4-3-2.  With the winner’s share of $120,000, she increased her earnings to $357,900.

Second in the La Brea, Golden Principal was again second best today, finishing 2 ¼ lengths clear of Qahira.  Off at 5-1, Golden Principal paid $6.80 and $4.60.

Forwardly placed throughout, Qahira finished 1 ¼ lengths in front of Biddy Duke.  Ridden by Joel Rosario, Qahira was off at 3-1 and paid $4.20 to show.

Prominent disappointments in the race were last year’s winner, Hard Not to Love, who went off as the 2-1 favorite, and the La Brea winner Fair Maiden, both of whom never threatened and finished seventh and eighth respectively.

Fractions on the Santa Monica were 22.64, 45.34 and 1:09.61.

The post Merneith Leads 1-2-3 Baffert Finish In Santa Monica Stakes appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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