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ARCADIA, CA – Trainer Phil D’Amato knew he had won, he just wasn’t sure with whom until Mirth was ruled to have outbobbed her stablemate Tiny Tina in Saturday’s $100,000 Robert J. Frankel Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking from post 7 under Mike Smith as the 7/5 favorite, Mirth uncharacteristically took back and watched as Harmless led past the judges for the first time. Mirth settled comfortably in mid-pack while Harmless – pressured by Ms Peintour – posted opening fractions of :23.95, :48.77, and 1:12.31.
Midway through the far turn, Smith tipped Mirth out, and halfway home, she had secured command. Tiny Tina ranged up along her outside and met her throat latch at the 1/16 pole, and for a moment, she looked like the 7/1 upset winner.
Mirth dug down deep and fought back gamely along the inside, however, refusing to let Tiny Tina get by easily. Inching ahead in the shadow of the wire, Mirth won by a nose in a final time of 1:48.32 for the 1 1/8-mile event over the good turf course.
“That was awesome,” said Smith, who also won the Lady of Shamrock Stakes and the La Brea Stakes (G1) earlier on the card. “(Tiny Tina) got in front of me, but she dug back in. There was a little more pace than I expected, but that was fine because that helped me. If it had been just one horse going out there on the lead, then I probably would have had to go early to press, but this way, I just got to sit and wait and move when I wanted.”
Excellent Sunset looked loaded off of the far turn but had zero space through which she could unleash her kick. Though she eventually found room late, it proved to be too late, as she crossed 3/4 of a length behind in third.
Don’t Blame Judy beat Curlin’s Journey for fourth by 3/4 of a length. Streak of Luck, Ms Peintour, and an empty Harmless completed the order of finish.
Mirth’s win was her second in her past three starts, having won the Rodeo Drive Stakes (G1) in gate-to-wire fashion before finishing a respectable sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). The Pennsylvania-bred 4-year-old daughter of Colonel John improved her record to 18-6-4-2 with $395,563 earned for Little Red Feather Racing.
“It may have been Mike Smith’s plan (to sit back), but I thought we would be sitting second, maybe, not that far back,” D’Amato said. “But Mike is a Hall of Famer, so he figured it out. Today, she showed a good dimension against good horses, so I think at the end of the day, she wants to go further than a mile and 1/8. This was a good stepping stone today.”
Mirth returned $4.80 to win, $3 to place, and $2.20 to show. Tiny Tina brought back $6.40 to place and $3.60 to show, while Excellent Sunset paid $2.40 to show.
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