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Saratoga and Del Mar 2017

Dancingtothestars Takes Fran's Valentine

Dancingtothestars wins Fran's Valentine.
Photo: Benoit Photo
Dancingtothestars accelerated past the tiring frontrunners turning for home, then withstood a rider’s objection to win Saturday’s $100,000 Fran’s Valentine Stakes for Golden State Series eligible fillies and mares on the Gold Rush card at Santa Anita.

Dancingtothestars is a 6-year-old mare by Good Journey, out of the In Excess mare A Lil Excess and was bred by owner Ren-Mar Thoroughbreds.

“We’re very proud of her,” said Cathy Lambert, daughter-in-law of Marjorie Lambert of Burbank, who races as Ren-Mar Thoroughbreds. “This is really special because we lost her dam last year. She had been bred to Atticus and then got colic. To win the Megahertz (Stakes, three starts back) and now the Fran’s Valentine, this is unreal.”

Dancingtothestars is trained by Doug O’Neill and was ridden by Mario Gutierrez.

“Mario knows her well,” said O’Neill. “He was out of town the last time she ran (third in the Irish O’Brien). Joe Talamo gave her a great ride, but the Ren-Mar people were kind enough to let Mario back on when he got back in town. Nothing against Joe, but I’m glad Mario got to regain the mount.”

Dancingtothestars has seven wins in 23 starts, earnings of $473,122 and was coming off a third in the Mar. 15 Irish O’Brien. Dancingtothestars was fourth in this race last year.

Dancingtothestars ran the mile on turf in 1:35.09 and won by 3½ lengths as the longest shot in the field of four at 5-1. Defending champion Unusual Hottie was second, Halo Dolly was third and Unusual Way fourth.

“I got a perfect trip,” said Gutierrez. “Unfortunately, there was an objection but looking at the replay, it happened just like I thought it did. I don’t think I needed to do anything differently, I didn’t bother anybody. She responded really well today. She’s always been a great filly. The grass is a little softer (after rain), but not much; it’s great.”

Tyler Baze, the rider of Unusual Hottie, lodged the objection claiming interference against the winner at the three-eighths pole, but the stewards ruled there would be no change in the order of finish.

Baze felt he deserved a win via disqualification.

“He (Gutierrez) totally knocked my filly’s hind end out from under her and it cost me the race,” Baze said. “She went from dragging me to me having no horse in one stride and she still outran the rest of them. I was going to win for fun today.”

Third-place finisher Halo Dolly needed to finish no worse than second to become the latest Cal-bred millionaire.

“She ran big last time (winning the Dream of Summer). Today, we switched back to grass,” said Corey Nakatani, Halo Dolly’s jockey. “I had a feeling that (Rafael) Bejarano was going to send for his life, which he did. My filly was tracking the other one; they went too fast and that’s what cost her in the end.”

The field was thinned to four by the scratches of Ciao Bella Luna, Kathleen Rose and Journey On, the latter being entered in Sunday’s $100,000 Grade III Wilshire Handicap.


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