It may not rise to the level of settled science, but yet another equine case study was unveiled Sunday at Santa Anita, leaving little doubt that when it comes to big race results, this is indeed Bob Baffert’s world and the rest of us are merely living in it.
Although she encountered unexpected trouble a quarter mile out, Baffert’s Beautiful Gift, the “Other Baffert” in pari-mutuel parlance, was able to mount a furious rally through the lane and get up to nail Michael McCarthy’s Moraz by a short head in the Grade 3, $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes, an important steppingstone to the Santa Anita Oaks (G2) on April 3. Ridden by John Velazquez, Beautiful Gift got a mile and one sixteenth in 1:44.83.
With Baffert’s 3-5 favorite Kalypso showing the way to the far turn, Moraz was closing in, just a length back to her outside while Beautiful Gift sat third at the rail, about 1 ½ lengths off the lead. Approaching the quarter pole, Moraz appeared to have gained the advantage and Beautiful Gift, full of run, was poised to come through at the rail, but instead had to wait and swing three-deep at the top of the lane, allowing Moraz to hold a seemingly insurmountable 2 ½ length lead with just a sixteenth of a mile to run.
“She was full of run and I was trying to keep her from getting dirt in her face but when Rispoli [Umberto, aboard Moraz] pushed Joel [Rosario, aboard Kalypso] in, I had to take a hold of her,” said Velazquez. “But she was able to overcome it…By the time I got her to the outside, I got her rolling and I was hoping she would get there before the wire and she did.”
Idle since breaking her maiden at a flat mile on Oct. 23, Beautiful Gift, who was one of three Baffert entrants among a field of four sophomore fillies, was off at 3-1 and paid $8.00 and $3.80 with no show wagering.
“I didn’t think Johnny was going to get there and all of a sudden that mare kicked in and [Beautiful Gift] is really [good]. We gave her some time. She got really light on us. The further the better for her. I didn’t think she got there until I saw the super slow mo, but I’m just happy that they ran well…It’s nice to get these fillies, it’s all I have for the Oaks, so it’s fun.”
A daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, owned and bred by Baoma Corporation, Beautiful Gift is out of the A.P. Indy mare Sea Gift. With two wins from three starts, the winner’s share of $60,000 boosted her earnings to $99,600.
The second choice at 2-1, Moraz finished 2 ¾ lengths in front of Kalypso and paid $3.20 to show. Baffert’s third entrant, Heels Up, was last throughout and was distanced by nearly 26 lengths at 16-1.
Baffert, whose top rated Derby hopeful Life Is Good ran away with Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes (G2), now has nine stakes wins and 21 overall victories at the current Winter/Spring Meet, putting him first in both categories.
Beautiful Gift will receive 50 qualifying points to the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, which will be run on April 30. The second, third and fourth place finishers will receive 20, 10 and five points respectively.
Fractions on the race were 23.95, 48.13, 1:12.69 and 1:38.21.
Santa Ysabel (G3) Quotes:
JOHN VELAZQUEZ, BEAUTIFUL GIFT, WINNER: “Bob’s other horse (Kalypso) was beaten and Michael’s (Moraz) was to the outside with Rispoli, I thought that was the horse to beat so I wanted to keep it as close as I could, so she didn’t have too much to make up to the wire. I had to steady a little at the quarter pole and it took me a little more time to get her to the outside. She was full of run and I was trying to keep her from getting dirt in her face but when Rispoli (Umberto, aboard Moraz) pushed Joel (Rosario, aboard Kalypso) in, I had to take a hold of her. But she was able to overcome it. By the time I got her to the outside, I got her rolling and I was hoping she would get there before the wire and she did.
“I thought I (got it). I wasn’t sure, don’t get me wrong because Joel asked me galloping out, ‘You think you go it?’ I said, ‘I think so man, but that was tight.’
“Thank you to Bob and the team for having me, hopefully I get more opportunities to come here.”
BOB BAFFERT, BEAUTIFUL GIFT, WINNER: “Well (for) Kalypso the distance has always been a little suspect, but the other filly stayed right on top of her and didn’t let her get away. I didn’t think Johnny was going to get there and all of a sudden that mare kicked in and (Beautiful Gift) is really (good). We gave her some time she got real light on us. The further the better for her. I didn’t think she got there until I saw the super slow mo but I’m just happy that they ran well. Heels Up really can’t go that far, we’re gonna keep her one turn. It’s nice to get these fillies, it’s all I have for the Oaks, so it’s fun."
NOTE: The winning owner/breeder is Baoma Corp.