A change in tactics and an eye-catching turn of foot resulted in a career-best performance from the Richard Baltas-trained Going to Vegas in Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Santa Ana Stakes at Santa Anita, as the 4-year-old daughter of Goldencents motored to an impressive 3 3/4-length win. Ridden for the first time by Umberto Rispoli, Going to Vegas, who was claimed eight starts back for $50,000, got 1 1/4 miles on turf in 2:00.80.
Second, about a half length off of heavily favored Mucho Unusual as the field made the dirt crossing shortly after its hillside turf start, Going to Vegas took the pole position about a mile from home with French-bred Neige Blanche and Mucho Unusual in close attendance to the far turn.
With a one-length advantage over Neige Blanche at the quarter pole, Going to Vegas spurted clear 3/16 of a mile out to win as much the best.
“She ran her race today,” said Baltas, who has won the last four runnings of the Santa Ana. “Today was the first time she showed us that kind of acceleration. The turn of foot was impressive.”
Although she had broken her maiden and won an allowance route while on or near the lead prior to being claimed on June 12, 2020, Going to Vegas had never exhibited the kind of front-running dominance she did today.
“Just working on her, getting her to relax and obviously we took the blinkers off of her (four starts back),” explained Baltas. “With this distance, it’s probably better for her to stay or even a little further. (A) mile and three eighths, mile and a half, because she has tactical speed and she made the lead pretty easy today…I was pleasantly surprised that she had that turn of foot at the end.”
Fourth going one mile on turf in the Buena Vista Stakes (G2) on Feb. 20, Going to Vegas was second two starts back in the Grade I American Oaks at a mile and one quarter on turf. With the Santa Ana her second attempt at the distance, Going to Vegas was the second choice among a field of six older fillies and mares and paid $8.60, $2.80 and $2.40.
“Since last night when I watched all the races of the filly, I (thought) she probably would be the pace,” said Rispoli. “This morning I said to myself, ‘The only way to beat Mucho Unusual is to go get the lead.’ The race came the way I want, I took the lead before the first turn and from there, she just kept improving acceleration and she really gave me a serious turn of foot at the top of the stretch.”
Owned by Abbondanza Racing LLC, Medallion Racing and MyRacehorse, Going to Vegas, who is out of the Johannesburg mare Hard to Resist, notched her first ever stakes win and improved her overall mark to 18: 4-8-2. With the winner’s share of $60,000, she increased her earnings to $283,751.
Mucho Unusual, attentive to the pace while saving ground throughout, was full of run at the top of the lane but was clearly second best on the day, finishing one length in front of a late running Red Lark.
Off at 2-5 with Flavien Prat, Mucho Unusual paid $2.10 and $2.10.
Irish-bred Red Lark rallied from last under Ricky Gonzalez and paid $2.20 to show while finishing 1 1/4 lengths in front of Neige Blanche.
Fractions on the race were 24.64, 49.17, 1:14.02 and 1:38.14.