ARCADIA, CA – Gary and Mary West homebred Fighting Mad surged to the lead out of the gate and never looked back, taking the field coast to coast in Sunday’s $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.

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Breaking from post 3 under Abel Cedillo at 10/1 odds, Fighting Mad gunned to the front and easily crossed over to the rail heading into the clubhouse turn. The stout field of five stayed within relatively compact while Cedillo’s boots were in the dashboard for the first half of the race.

Once able to control her own speed, Fighting Mad posted uncontested opening fractions of :23.25, :46.49, and 1:10.09. Behind her, Horologist and Kaydetre raced ahead of the 3/5 favorite Ce Ce, while the one-eyed filly Hard Not to Love – whose refusal to approach the starting gate forced the post time to resemble a race in southern Florida – trailed in the early going.

Ce Ce tipped out three-wide nearing the far turn and she soon began sliding past the fading duo of Horologist and Kaydetre. Hard Not to Love soon followed suit, but at the top of the stretch, it looked like Fighting Mad found a new gear thanks to a mid-race breather.

Hard Not to Love was able to surpass an all-out fading Ce Ce in deep stretch, but nobody was catching the loose-on-the-lead Fighting Mad. The Bob Baffert trainee crossed 3 1/4 lengths the best in a final time of 1:42.12 for the 1 1/16-mile fast dirt event.

Credit: Benoit Photo

“When she broke, she broke like a rocket, so I was just trying to slow down,” Cedillo said. “I know I went a little fast, but she just did it on her own. … She was looking around, … but in the stretch, she just did it easy.”

Hard Not to Love was 2 1/4 lengths past Ce Ce, who was exiting back-to-back Grade 1 victories in the local Beholder Mile Stakes and Oaklawn Park’s Apple Blossom Handicap.

“I think the long post parade, it seemed like she let down a little, like maybe her energy dropped,” said Ce Ce’s jockey Victor Espinoza. “She was okay going into the first turn, then she wasn’t herself today.”

Kaydetre was not persevered with after dropping out in the turn and crossed 17 1/2 lengths further back in fourth to complete the order of finish.

Horologist appeared to take a bad step midway through the far turn, causing jockey Flavien Prat to pull her up, but she continued fighting her restraints and eventually jogged across the wire to complete the order of finish. She walked off the track under her own power.

Fighting Mad’s win was her second at the graded stakes level, following last August’s 1-mile Torrey Pines Stakes (G3) at Del Mar, and improved her overall record to 7-4-1-0. The 4-year-old New Year’s Day filly, whose 2020 debut was a fourth-place finish in the 6-furlong Desert Stormer Stakes (G3), has now earned $294,008.

“She needed her last race and she had trained well coming into this,” Baffert said. “We’ve always been high on her, and today, I told the jock to put her on the lead, that’s where she wants to be. She can be a little headstrong, but I could see turning for home, I knew she was gonna be tough to beat. Today, she ran like she did at Del Mar. That’s a really good time on this track.”

Fighting Mad returned $22.20 to win, $6.40 to place, and $3.20 to show. Hard Not to Love brought back $4 to place and $2.40 to show, while Ce Ce paid $2.10 to show.