ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 14, 2017)—Sent from her inside post from the outset, heavily favored Vale Dori took no prisoners as she waltzed gate to wire to a 2 ½ length win under Mike Smith in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita. Trained by Bob Baffert, the newly turned 5-year-old Argentine-bred mare notched her third consecutive win as she negotiated a mile and one sixteenth over a main track listed as “good” in 1:44.95.
With second choice Wild At Heart in close attendance down the backside, Smith called upon Vale Dori approaching the three furlong pole and opened up immediately, making the La Canada a race for the minor placings at that point.
“It’s important to have her versatility,” said Smith. “I think she’s got to the point where she’s not a one dimensional horse and I think she’d even sit off of someone now if they wanted to get crazy…I look for her to do some great things. She’s got a long year ahead of her and hopefully she won’t run into my other big mare (Jerry Hollendorfer’s Songbird) and I get to ride them both.”
Owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, Vale Dori, who was making her sixth start for Baffert in Southern California, came off an impressive three length win in the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap at Del Mar Dec. 3 and she now has four wins in combination with Baffert.
Off at 1-5 in a field of five older fillies and mares, she paid $2.60, $2.10 and $2.10. (With $632,101 out of the total show pool of $682,814 bet on her, Vale Dori created a minus show pool of $119,663).
“She’s come a long way,” said Baffert. “It was tough to get a bridle on her before. She was tough. She’s improving, we see it. I’m just glad she’s doing well. We’ll get her ready for the big guns. I wonder if Mike will stay on her (laughing).”
Trainer Art Sherman’s Show Stealer, next to last going into the far turn, picked up the pieces and ran second, some 7 ½ lengths clear of Autumn Flower.
Ridden by Tyler Baze, Show Stealer was off at 13-1 and paid $5.80 and $3.40.
Autumn Flower, who was ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, was content to lag well back in last, but kept to her task through the drive, as she came up the rail to finish third by a half length.
Off at 20-1, Autumn Flower paid $5.00 to show.
Fractions on the race were 23.63, 47.58, 1:12.43 and 1:38.37.
First post time for a nine-race card on Sunday at Santa Anita is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.
MIKE SMITH, VALE DORI, WINNER: “She’s just gotten so good. They’ve done such a good job of getting her to relax. She’s really come around. I got on her when she first got here and she was nothing like this. She was very rank and very aggressive. To see her now, it’s a complete turnaround. She’s so calm and cool. She went out there with a lot of confidence, a lot of class. She’s doing well right now and climbing the ladder.
“It’s important to have her versatility. I think she’s gotten to the point where she’s not a one dimensional horse and I think she’d even sit off of someone now if they wanted to get crazy. I look for her to do some great things. She’s got a long year ahead of her and hopefully she won’t run into my other big mare and I get to ride them both.”
BOB BAFFERT, VALE DORI, WINNER: “I’m impressed by her because she took on some really nice fillies.
“Wild At Heart is a good mare. She took her on early and didn’t give it to her. When Mike made that move at the three-eighths pole…I saw him make that adios move and was hoping he didn’t move her too early. She had something left at the end. When they’re that heavily favored, you just hope they run to their odds.
“They sent her to me to get a Grade I into her and have some fun with her so I’m just glad that they kept her in training. They were thinking of breeding her so this is good to have. These good fillies are hard to get. She’s improving.
“She’s come a long way. It was tough to get a bridle on her before. She was tough. She’s improving and we see it. I’m just glad she’s doing well. We’ll get her ready for the big guns. I wonder if Mike will stay on her (laughs.)
“Well, eventually she’ll have to run against that caliber of horse (regarding Songbird) but I think she’s improved since she ran against her and we’ll just continue moving forward. If not, we can always put her on a plane and go somewhere else. We have a lot of options with her.”
Source: Santa Anita Park