ARCADIA, CA – It took trainer William Morey 1,566 trips to victory lane to get it, but James and Tammy McKenney’s homebred Coniah gave Morey his first career graded stakes victory after wiring Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Las Cienegas Stakes at Santa Anita.
Breaking sharply from the rail under Kent Desormeaux, Coniah kept control through fractions of :21.78 and :43.89. Hitting the stretch with a 3-length lead, Coniah came off the rail a bit and held strongly, hitting the wire first by 1 3/4 lengths in a final time of 1:12.17 for the 6 1/2-furlong downhill turf course.
“It took me almost 1,600 wins to get my first graded win,” Morey said. “It feels pretty good. I was very confident. I thought she looked great out there and I had Kent in charge, so I wasn’t looking at the fractions. When they turned for home, I knew they had to do some running to catch her.”
Bendable split foes in midstretch after stalking early and was able to get up for second, a length past Princess Princess. The favored Beau Recall failed to rally in the stretch and could only muster fourth, while Instant Reflex, Anita Partner, and Proper Discretion completed the order of finish. Angel Allie and Miss Southern Miss were scratched.
A 5-year-old mare out of Harlington, Coniah’s win improved her career record to 20-4-5-3 with career earnings of $295,365. The Las Cienegas marked her first start since June, when she finished second to Bendable in the Grade 3 Desert Stormer Stakes, a 6-furlong dirt race. Prior to that, she had finished second twice going down the turf hill and was finally able to break through today.
“She was awesome today,” Desormeaux said. “She was very comfortable. I’ve seen her develop and she was a consummate pro today. I thought (Instant Reflex) would show more speed. When I saw that it was (Proper Discretion) that was showing the speed, I thought, ‘I gotta knuckle down and stay clear of her,’ because she’s a dedicated, front-running sprinter. It worked out great.”
Coniah returned $6.40 to win, $3.60 to place, and $2.60 to show. Bendable brought back $5 to place and $3.80 to show, while Princess Princess paid $7.80 to show.