With the aplomb of a seasoned veteran, Sushi Empire
rated off the early pace and came flying three-wide into the stretch to break her maiden in Santa Anita’s $75,000 Blue Norther Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 1 ¼ lengths, getting one mile on turf in 1:36.22 under Corey Nakatani.
Breaking from post position five in a field of seven, Sushi Empire was outrun to the Club House turn by longshot One More Wild Ride, with Tyler Baze, and Rever de Vous, ridden by Rafael Bejarano-- who out-footed “Sushi” early and sat second to the pace setter.
“It was real tight going into that first turn,” said Nakatani. “Bejarano’s horse crossed over and they weren’t clear yet, but my horse was wanting to go…I was able to get her back through. The way she did it, was just tremendous.
“Baze got loose on the lead with a (longshot)…The rail was out (15 feet) and speed is always dangerous, so I just tried to help her out and let her dictate the way. She did everything we expected her to do today.”
Content to sit third down the backside behind fractions of 24.17, 48.31, 1:12.45, Nakatani called upon the Eoin Harty-trained daughter of Empire Maker leaving the quarter pole and she flew by both Bejarano and Baze turning for home, stopping the timer at 1:24.48 after seven furlongs.
Off as the second choice at 3-1, Sushi Empire paid $8.40, $3.40 and $2.40. Owned by Wounded Warrior Stables, she picked up $47,100 for the win, more than doubling her earnings to $70,560.
“I felt good about her chances but when Tom Proctor’s filly (morning line favorite Famous Alice) scratched, I felt real good,” said Harty. “There was false speed today and she always tries to do too much. I emphasized to Corey that I didn’t want him to send her away from the gate and to try and save some ground. I want to keep her on the grass.
Third, beaten 1 ½ lengths by Full Ransom in the Grade III Miesque Stakes Nov. 30, Sushi Empire now has a win, a second and a third from five starts.
Breaking from post four, Full Ransom, winner of the Nov. 30 Miesque, was ridden by Victor Espinoza and rallied to be second as the 6-5 favorite, paying $2.80 and $2.10.
“She is a funny filly to ride,” said Espinoza. “She doesn’t take the turns very well. On the far turn she slowed down a bit. She always takes a little time to accelerate, but then she started to move. I was following Nakatani the whole way. It’s just one of those things that we need to figure out before the next race. She ran great and I think she can go further.”
Rever de Vous got a perfect tracking trip and finished a half length behind Full Ransom at 7-2 and paid $3.00 to show.
It was another half length back to One More Wild Ride, who finished fourth at 19-1.
“Around the far turn, I thought I was gonna win it,” said Baze, who had a four length advantage coming to the quarter pole and who returned to riding on Wednesday following a 5 ½ month absence. “When we turned for home, she was kinda waiting on those horses…She’s a nice filly. I’m just enjoying being out there.”
There is a Pick Six carryover into Thursday of $71,474 and it is expected the total pool will exceed $500,000. Santa Anita will offer an eight-race program Thursday, and the Pick Six will start with race three.