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Heavy rain forced Santa Anita Park to delay its opening day of racing this year, but once the horses finally ran on Saturday, they did not disappoint. The track gave us several top-notch performances to pick from for our latest Three Stars of the Week. Here’s who made the cut:
This was easily the best performance of the weekend. Not only did Omaha Beach romp in the Malibu Stakes (G1), he absolutely embarrassed the field while never being asked to get out of first gear the entire race. After missing the break, Omaha Beach sat towards the back of the pack while Much Better set a blistering pace. Up the back stretch, he got into striking position, then blew by the front-runners with absolute ease at the top of the stretch. From there on, it was a total laugher, as he cruised home under a tight hold from jockey Mike Smith to win the race by 2 3/4 lengths. After a win like this, there is no doubt that he’ll head to the Pegasus World Cup (G1) as the favorite.
The big gray beast is back! For the second straight season, the John Sadler-trained Gift Box captured the San Antonio Stakes (G2). Also for the second straight year, the horse was coming off of a long layoff, which led to many question marks. He put those to rest early in the race, though, as he headed to the front and never looked back in a dominating performance. Last year’s effort in this race sprung him to a great start to the season before injury issues derailed his year a bit early. We’ll see if he can use this race to kick off what could by a major 2020.
Our first two stars were heavy favorites, but the La Brea Stakes (G1) gave us an 11/1 upset winner when Hard Not to Like stormed home late to pick up the victory. Heavily favored Bellafina blazed to extremely fast opening fractions, which set the pace up perfectly for the late-running Hard Not To Like, ridden perfectly by Mike Smith. Approaching the wire, she easily slid by the pacesetters, winning by over 2 lengths. This filly has progressed nicely throughout the second half of the season and could be set up for a solid 2020 campaign.
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