Race of the Week 2017

Include Me Out Clearly Best in Santa Margarita

Jay Em Ess Stable’s Include Me Out surged to the fore among the West Coast’s older females on Saturday with a thoroughly dominant display in Santa Anita’s Grade I, $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes contested over a “sloppy” main track at 1 1/8 miles.


The 75th running of the event that serves as the meet’s divisional championship was supposed to be little more than a recital for front-running Ellafitz, the 4-5 choice in search of her fourth straight stakes victory, but Include Me Out wasn’t buying into it.


With Joe Talamo directing the way, she shot past Ellafitz rounding the far turn and blazed to a 3 ¾-length victory over Love Theway Youare in 1:47.62. Meanwhile, the prohibitive favorite backed up to last in a field lessened to four by weather-related scratches.


Other than perhaps Ellafitz’s ability to handle an off-track, the only question in the aftermath might have been what took the connections of Include Me Out so long to stretch her out to two turns.


She signaled her distance potential in her last race on Jan. 22. It was her seventh start and her first around two turns. She responded with a stirring 4 ½-length victory at odds of 8-1 in the Grade II La Canada Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.


Include Me Out simply expanded on that building block in the Santa Margarita.


With Martin Garcia in the saddle, Ellafitz looked primed to give Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his first Santa Margarita win. The dedicated front-runner took the small field through moderate fractions of 23.88, 47.16 and 1:10.62. Talamo, meantime, kept Include Me Out within close range while racing in second.


After Include Me Out had taken complete control, she was under a hand ride while crossing the wire as Love Theway Youare ran on for second, 3 ¼ lengths ahead of Miss Mittagong. Ellafitz wound up another head back.


“I don’t know what happened,” said Garcia. “I guess she just didn’t like the track because she is better than she ran today. She was good until the three-eighths pole, but when I asked her to go, she didn’t respond like she usually does. I just don’t think she liked the mud.” Said Talamo while stating the obvious about the winner, “I think my horse handled the track really well.” He added, “I was loaded the whole way.”


Ron Ellis, who trains Include Me Out for the stable of Samantha Siegel, said he was confident going into the Santa Margarita. “I knew my filly was going to run huge,” said Ellis. “That’s all I knew. I wasn’t worried about the favorite. I knew my filly would run a huge race and she did.


“I had a lot of confidence in her, the way she was training,” continued Ellis. “She was improving in leaps and bounds. I was just worried about the racetrack. She’s got a lot of heart and I know the way she was loping around back there, she was going to give it a run at the three-eighths. That’s where she likes to make her move, and it turned out to be the winning move.”


As the 13-10 second choice, Include Me Out paid $4.60 and $5.40 with no show wagering. Love Theway Youare, ridden by Joel Rosario, paid $11.80 to place. The winning purse of $180,000 almost doubled the earnings of the victorious 4-year-old purchased for $150,000. It brought her career total to $363,600 from a 4-2-0 record in eight races.


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