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Merneith Wins Santa Monica On Front End
Credit: Ernie Belmonte

Merneith Wins Santa Monica On Front End

ARCADIA, CA – With jockey Edwin Maldonado aboard for the first time, the speedy Merneith was a front-running winner of Saturday’s $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.

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Merneith and her Bob Baffert stablemate Golden Principal (with Mike Smith aboard) dueled heads apart through fractions of :22.64 and :45.34 while Biddy Duke and Qahira (Baffert’s third entry) gave closest watch.

Merneith caught a breather thanks to her stablemates’ lack of pressure, covering the next 1/4-mile in :24.27 while straightening for home with a growing advantage.

Merneith crossed 2 1/4 lengths victorious at 9/1 odds, completing the 7-furlong fast dirt sprint in 1:22.28.

Credit: Ernie Belmonte

“At first, she broke good,” Maldonado said. “I looked over and I see Mike Smith and he was right next to me and I’m like, ‘Oh, what do I do? Should I let him go or no?’ But it worked out good. Mike stayed off of me and we both relaxed.”

Golden Principal was 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Qahira, while Biddy Duke stayed on for fourth.

AmuseProud Emma, the 2/1 favorite Hard Not to LoveFair Maiden, and Secret Keeper completed the merry-go-round order of finish.

Miss Stormy DPharoah’s Heart, and Bohemian Bourbon were scratched.

Merneith’s win was her first at the graded stakes ranks and followed a strong third in last December’s La Brea Stakes (G1) over this same course and distance. The 4-year-old American Pharoah filly, purchased for $600,000 by Prince Sultan Bin Mishal Al Saud, has now earned $357,900 with a record of 10-4-3-2.

“The one thing about Edwin is he’s probably one the best speed gate riders there is,” said Baffert, who also trained American Pharoah. “This filly, every time I run her, I expect to win and she gets beat. … She looks like American Pharoah to me; when she came in, she looked almost like a spitting image of him.”

Merneith returned $20.40 to win, $9.20 to place, and $5.80 to show. Golden Principal brought back $6.80 to place and $4.60 to show. Qahira paid $4.20 to show.

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