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After Anxious Moments, Grade 2 Santa Maria No Problem for Vale Dori

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 11, 2017)—There were anxious moments prior to the start of Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes, as 1-5 favorite Vale Dori reared, ejecting jockey Mike Smith out the back of the starting gate in the process, but their fears were soon allayed, as the brilliant Argentine-bred mare made short work of five rivals, winning by 1 ¾ lengths while negotiating 1 1/16 miles over a wet fast Santa Anita main track in 1:43.19.

Breaking from the far outside, the Bob Baffert-conditioned Vale Dori was away alertly and sat a close second to pacesetter Midnight Toast to the far turn where she took command with three furlongs to go and with a staggering $558,490 bet to show on her (out of a total show pool of $608,355), the Santa Maria was hers.

“She got a little excited in the gate today,” said Smith. “I’m not really sure what happened in the gate, something spooked her. She just reacted to it and almost went all the way over…She was aggravated for a good eighth of a mile before I talked her out of it. After that, she was well within herself.

“She’s gotten good. There’s not a Songbird or Stellar Wind in there, so that certainly helps. But she’s climbing the ladder. At some point she’s going to deserve a chance at them. If anyone had hooked up with her today, she would have sat off of them no doubt, just no speed today.

In registering her fourth consecutive win (her last three Grade 2 stakes), Vale Dori, a 5-year-old, paid $2.60, $2.10 and $2.10.

Owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, Vale Dori improved her overall record to 12-7-3-1. With the winner’s share of $120,000, she increased her earnings to $694,943.

“She was a little fresh today,” said Baffert. “I missed some time with her during the rains, so she was coming in here a little bit fresh today. I missed a lot of days (training) when it was raining, so we just took it easy with her. These races (most recently the Grade 2 La Canada on Jan. 14) have been keeping her fit so I don’t have to do too much in between…We’re definitely looking at the Santa Margarita (Grade 1, 1 1/8 miles on March 18).”

Show Stealer, who was taken back to last early by Tyler Baze, ran a big race from off the pace and finished second, 3 ¾ lengths clear of Autumn Flower. Off at 6-1, Show Stealer, who is trained by Art Sherman, paid $3.40 and $2.40.

Ridden by Flavien Prat, Autumn Flower was off at 31-1 and paid $4.00 to show.

Fractions on the race were 23.66, 47.35, 1:11.68 and 1:36.73.

G2 Santa Maria Stakes Quotes

MIKE SMITH, VALE DORI, WINNER: “She got a little excited in the gate today. I’m not really sure what happened in the gate, something spooked her. She just reacted to it and almost went all the way over. It might have hurt us a little bit. She was aggravated for a good eighth of a mile before I talked her out of it. After that, she was well within herself.

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“She tends to look around a little bit down the lane. I stay really busy on her.

“The horses sounded like they were right behind me but no one was! I was there, riding her harder than I probably have to. I swear it sounded like they were right behind me.

“She’s just gotten good. There’s not a Songbird or Stellar Wind in there, so that certainly helps. But she’s climbing the ladder. At some point she’s going to deserve a chance at them.

“If anyone had hooked up with her today, she would have sat off of them no doubt, just no speed today.”

TYLER BAZE, SHOW STEALER, SECOND: “I keep thinking that someone will hook up with Vale Dori and I’ll get the dream trip, but no one hooks up with her.

“I let (Show Stealer) sneak up there a bit on Vale Dori down the backside. I didn’t want to leave her a whole lot to do, knowing how slow we were going. She ran a great race once again, though. One of these days, she can outrun the rest of them so . . . “

BOB BAFFERT, VALE DORI, WINNER: Asked if she is getting better: “She keeps beating the same group, so that’s good. She’s just steady and she’s right there. The gate thing, I think she’s very funny about her head. I think the gate guy might have touched her near her ear, and she will do that. You’ve got to be real careful with her.

“I don’t know (if she backed out). She jumped up and tried to flip or something. I don’t know what it was. Something got her, but she will do that. She was a little fresh today. I missed some time with her during the rains, so she was coming in here a little bit fresher. We missed a lot of days when it was raining so we just took it easy with her. These races have been keeping her fit so I don’t have to do too much in between.

“We’re definitely looking at the Santa Margarita (next, Grade I, $400,000, 1 1/8 miles on March 18). That’s the plan. Those South American horses, they love mud, they like wet tracks. It’s good to know, but she’s been a joy to train . . . She’s making money, we enjoy watching her run and she tries hard every time.”

Santa Anita Park

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