ARCADIA, CA – Cicero Farms’ Marley’s Freedom earned her first career graded stakes score in a big way on Sunday, dominating a short field of five fillies and mares in the Grade 3, $100,000 Desert Stormer Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking evenly from the outside under Drayden Van Dyke as the 4-5 favorite, Marley’s Freedom was content to stalk while a three-wide wall consisting of Cuyathy, Yuvetsi, and Miss Sunset set the hot early pace. Chasing the front-running trio through an opening 1/4-mile in :21.70, Marley’s Freedom began making her move in the far turn while the wall crumbled. Though Miss Sunset had momentarily established a 2-length lead, Marley’s Freedom quickly collared her rival and surged past to take a 2-length lead by the time she straightened for home. Kept to task while widening her advantage, Marley’s Freedom hit the wire by 7 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:09.31 for the 6-furlong sprint over the main course.
“I was smiling when I saw those three gun outta there,” said Van Dyke. “It felt like I had a ton of horse all the way around there. This was her best race by far today.”
The remaining foes were as spread out as the winner, with Miss Sunset taking second by 4 3/4 lengths over Yuvetsi. Classy Tune stumbled badly out of the gate and spotted the field several lengths as a result, which was much too much to overcome. She was 3 1/4 lengths behind Yuvetsi and could only outrun the fading Cuyathy to complete the order of finish.
Marley’s Freedom’s win was her second straight since transferring to trainer Bob Baffert’s stable and improved her record to 10-4-2-0 with earnings of $233,435. The 4-year-old daughter of Blame was a well-beaten second in the Grade 2 Santa Monica Stakes, her most recent try against graded company.
Marley’s Freedom returned $3.80 to win, $2.10 to place, and $2.10 to show. Miss Sunset brought back $2.10 to place and $2.10 to show, while Yuvetsi paid $2.40 to show.