ARCADIA, CA – A lack of early pace pressure forced her to work harder than she might have liked, but in the end, Cicero Farms’ Marley’s Freedom was able to secure victory in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking from post 3 under Drayden Van Dyke as the prohibitive 3/5 favorite, Marley’s Freedom sat in her usual stalking position while Selcourt posted comfortable opening fractions of :22.48 and :45.07. Still trailing the loose-on-the-lead pacesetter as the field straightened for home, Marley’s Freedom came under a drive at the top of the stretch. Finally catching Selcourt in midstretch, Marley’s Freedom cleared away inside the final furlong before being wrapped up in the shadow of the wire. The Bob Baffert trainee crossed with a 1 1/4-length advantage in a final time of 1:22.34 for the 7-furlong sprint over the good main track.
“Bob told me to be sure to warm her up real good and to get her running away from there,” Van Dyke said. “She did and we had a good tactical spot. I was just sitting on her, but I had to get after Selcourt a little early because it looked like she was running pretty easy on the lead.”
Although unable to keep tabs on the winner late, Selcourt continued on strongly to finish second by 1 1/2 lengths over Mopotism. Completing the order of finish came Escape Clause and Paradise Woods. Both Amuse and Dream Tree were scratched.
Marley’s Freedom’s win was second straight following a dominating performance in December’s Grade 3 Go for Wand Handicap at Aqueduct. The 5-year-old daughter of Blame improved her record to 15-8-2-0, and her $120,000 share of the purse pushed her earnings ($935,935) within reach of millionaire status.
“She is amazing,” said co-owner Barbara Perry, who along with her husband Ron campaigns under the Cicero Farms banner. “She just is a gift from God. She’s so sweet and so much fun to be around and she just lays it down every time she runs.”
Marley’s Freedom returned $3.40 to win, $2.40 to place, and $2.10 to show. Selcourt brought back $4.20 to place and $3.20 to show, while Mopotism paid $3.80 to show.