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Welcome back, Churchill Downs and Santa Anita Park! Two of the biggest tracks in the country returned this past weekend with loaded cards that did not disappoint. Narrowing down the top choices was a difficult task, but here is our list of the Three Stars of the Week:
Rarely does an allowance/optional claiming victory warrant top billing, but this was no ordinary allowance/optional claiming event. Saturday’s fourth race at Churchill Downs was the return of the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) and Eclipse Award winner Monomoy Girl, who missed all of 2019 due to various setbacks. She faced six other fillies and mares going 1 mile under the Twin Spires, the site of Monomoy Girl’s last start, while making her first start in over 18 months. She showed zero signs of rust, rating perfectly under Florent Geroux before taking over three-wide in the far turn under her own power. She cruised home in the stretch powerfully for the victory, and the winner’s share of the purse pushed her career earnings mark past $3 million. The older female dirt division was already the strongest and deepest in horse racing, but with Monomoy Girl returning bigger and badder than ever, it just got that much better.
Monomoy Girl was not the only highly-respected female horse to return this weekend, though in Bellafina’s case, it was a different type. The 4-year-old filly was the favorite heading into last year’s Kentucky Oaks (G1) and faced off against several of the best 3-year-old fillies across the country, then nearly won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) over her home course. However, the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) represented her last victory over 13 months ago – until Sunday, that is, when she won the Desert Stormer Stakes (G3) against a tough field of California sprinting females. It was a nice bounce-back effort after she was a total no-show in the Carousel Stakes at Oaklawn Park and improved her Santa Anita Park record to 7-5-2-0. As long as she stays home out west, she will always have a shot.
Few people may have been as excited as I was for Santa Anita Park to resume live racing, but Flavien Prat was definitely one of them. Last year’s Kentucky Derby (G1) and Queen’s Plate-winning jockey put on an absolute clinic at The Great Race Place on Sunday, winning six of his nine mounts that day – one shy of the record set in 1987 by Laffit. His victories paid $10, $7.60, $4.80, $7.40, $3.60, and $8 to win, including a mid-card Pick 3 sequence that paid $25.80 for $0.50. He also took home Sunday’s lone stakes, the Desert Stormer, aboard longtime companion Bellafina. Out here in southern California, it’s Flavien Prat’s world; we’re all just living in it.
“I won five in one day at Del Mar last summer, but never here at Santa Anita,” Prat said after winning the Desert Stormer (his fifth of the day).
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