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ELMONT, NY – A late surge between rivals in deep stretch helped Coolmore’s international invader Santa Barbara capture Saturday’s $700,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) at Belmont Park.
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Santa Barbara broke from post 5 under fellow European Ryan Moore as the even-money favorite and settled into a mid-pack stalking position while racing between Higher Truth (inside) and Nazuna.
Con Lima broke well from the rail and set a measured opening tempo of :24.71, :51.31, and 1:16.40 while Spanish Loveaffair gave closest watch.
Looking for room off the far turn, the Aidan O’Brien-trained top choice finally found an open pocket near the 3/16 pole between Nazuna and Gam’s Mission, then burst through expeditiously when asked.
Rallying alongside Higher Truth, Santa Barbara kicked ahead of her and the rail-riding Con Lima in the final jumps before winning the 1 1/4-mile good inner turf route by a 1/2-length in 2:03.76.
“It was quite a steadily-run race,” Moore said. “They lined up and I was hoping Nazuna would drop away a bit sooner. I didn’t want to waste too much petrol by going around her. She got class. She’s got ability. She won without me moving a muscle. … I had to go out one switch (path) and I didn’t want to, but I had to. We’re lucky we got out in time. She done it very easily. I’m very happy with her.”
Though caught in the shadow of the wire, Con Lima remained a nose in front of Higher Truth for second.
Gam’s Mission, Plum Ali, Nazuna, Ciron, and Spanish Loveaffair completed the order of finish in the race restricted to 3-year-old fillies.
Santa Barbara’s win was her first at the stakes level and improved her overall record to 5-2-1-0 with $491,612 earned. Though this was her first foray into racing on American turf, the Irish-bred daughter of Camelot is a half-sister to a pair of runners who’ve already experienced Grade 1 success stateside: Iridessa, the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf champion, and Order of Australia, winner of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile.
“She’s been used to faster ground, so it probably took her a while to pick things up today on that slow ground,” said O’Brien assistant T.J. Comerford. “That was a good performance for her. Ryan knows her better than anyone and he knew that she had plenty of speed, so it was never a problem.”
Santa Barbara returned $4.30 to win, $3 to place, and $2.40 to show. Con Lima brought back $4.80 to place and $3.70 to show. Higher Truth paid $3.70 to show.
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