In her second career try down Santa Anita’s unique 6 ½ furlong hillside turf course, Ciao Bella Luna
, with Kent Desormeaux up, sat second to Marks Mine and Frank Alvarado down the hill, took the lead outside Marks Mine crossing the dirt at the top of the lane and prevailed in a head and head duel with the pacesetter to the wire, winning Saturday’s $125,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint by a half length in 1:12.81.
Trained by Peter Miller, Ciao Bella Luna was the third choice at 5-1 in a field of 11 older fillies and mares bred in California and paid $13.00, $6.40 and $4.80. .
“I thought we would be way back early,” said Desormeaux. “She broke horrible her last out so the only thing I did differently was I asked her to leave there better. “She carried me the rest of the way. She was in the bridle, just really floating along.”
A 4-year-old filly by Tribal Rule, Ciao Bella Luna
broke slowly in the Grade II Monrovia down the hill on Jan. 5, finishing an even fifth behind course specialist Pontchatrain.
“We bought her to be a synthetic horse and we thought maybe the turf would suit her,” said Miller, whose owner purchased her following a fourth place finish in the Grade II Raven Run at Keeneland on Oct. 19. “She ran well last time when we prepped in the Monrovia. This was the logical spot to come back and she ran super. Kent rode her great.”
Owned by Rockingham Ranch, Ciao Bella Luna picked up $75,000 for the win, hiking her earnings to $262,110. She registered her fourth win from 12 starts. .
Trained by Steve Specht, Marks Mine, who carved out splits of 22.45, 44.59 and 1:06.80, regained the lead from the winner a sixteenth of a mile out and ran too good to lose.
“When my filly crossed the dirt, she jumped,” said Alvarado. “I thought I would have been there. I think her jumping cost us the race.”
Based at Golden Gate Fields, Marks Mine was off at 9-1 and paid $10.40 and $6.40.
Tribal Spy, ridden by Irving Orozco, finished a head back of Marks Mine and paid $7.60 to show.
Favored at 3-1, Unusual Hottie, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, finished fourth, 1 ¼ lengths behind Tribal Spy.