Ellafitz, the 5-year-old mare whom trainer Bob Baffert says is
“getting better with age,” demonstrated her gritty resistance Saturday
when turning back challenge after challenge as the front-running winner
of Santa Anita’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes for older fillies
and mares at 1 1/16 miles.
After 11 starts without a stakes victory, the bay daughter of
Tiznow notched her third successive stakes win and second Grade II. But
instead of running away from her competitors as she had done twice
previously, Ellafitz dealt with them head-on Saturday while timed in
First, Spirit Seeker took her run at the 4-5 favorite. She
became discouraged. Next, third-choice Great Hot made a bid. She became
discouraged. Finally, Miss Mittagong flung down the gauntlet. Little
progress. Ellafitz and jockey Martin Garcia crossed the wire 1 ¼ lengths
ahead of Miss Mittagong and defending champion Vision in Gold, the 3-1
second choice, who dead-heated for the place.
While illustrating another dimension for the maturing Ellafitz,
the 60th running of the Santa Maria provided the rider-trainer
combination of Baffert and Garcia with its third victory of the
“She had to earn it today,” Baffert said in the winner’s circle.
“Everybody took her on and the way she fought back was pretty gallant.
In order to beat her, they tried to do that, but that’s part of horse
racing. You’ve just got to deal with it when you have a front-runner.
“They tried to go with her, but she’s so tough, the way she held
everybody off. I thought maybe she’d cave in at the end. She’s just
showing that she’s getting better and better. Once she gets in her
groove, she’s got a lot of Game On Dude in her. She really fought.”
“She had pressure all the way around the track,” Garcia’s said,
“but that’s the way she likes to run. She was alone on the front, and
when the other horses got involved, she responded and didn’t let them
pass. Today, she did what she wanted to do and just kept going. Whenever
I asked her, she just took off.”
Ellafitz paid $3.60, $2.60 and $2.10. Miss Mittagong, ridden by
Mario Gutierrez, returned $4 and $4.60. Vision in Gold, with Joel
Rosario aboard, paid $2.40 and $3.
The biggest payday of Ellafitz’s career was worth $120,000 to
the D. and E. Racing partnership of David and Ella Sivage and raised the
Kentucky-bred mare’s lifetime earnings to $397,957 from a 6-2-2 record
in 14 career starts.
Baffert said that, “if all goes well,” the next start of
Ellafitz will come in the Grade I, $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes at 1
1/8 miles on March 17.