Heavily-favored Marley’s Freedom earned the second graded stakes victory of her career with a last-to-first score in the $200,000 Great Lady M. Saturday at Los Alamitos.
The prohibitive 1-5 choice against four rivals, the 4-year-old Blame filly out of the Formal Gold mare Relaxing Green prevailed by 1 ½ lengths over defending champion and 5-2 second choice Skye Diamonds in the Grade II.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for Cicero Farms LLC, Marley’s Freedom, who was ridden with supreme confidence by jockey Drayden Van Dyke, completed the 6 ½ furlongs in 1:15.
Now 2-for-2 since changing stables – she had won the Grade III Desert Stormer by 7 ¼ lengths in her first outing for Baffert May 27 at Santa Anita – Marley’s Freedom won for the fifth time in 11 career starts. The $120,000 payday increased her earnings to $360,435. She returned $2.40 and $2.10. There was no show wagering.
Although trailing for the first half-mile, Marley’s Freedom, who was bred in Kentucky by Jack Swain, was never far off the pace set by Phantom Proton and Skye Diamonds, angled widest of all into the stretch and took over with a little more than an eighth of a mile to run.
“I ride her with a lot of confidence,’’ said Van Dyke. “The plan was to take her back and make a run and she gave me a real nice turn of foot. (Skye Diamonds) fought gamely, but I knew we had her measured.’’
The win was the second for Baffert in the Great Lady M., which has been run at Los Alamitos since 2015. He also captured the race in 2015 with Fantastic Style.
“(Van Dyke) knows her,’’ said Baffert assistant Mike Marlow. “We just wanted her to break and then let her relax. He kept her in the clear and rode her like he was on the best horse. She could be a lot of fun the rest of the year. We’re off to a good start.’’
Skye Diamonds, who was seeking her seventh win in her 13th start since being claimed for $40,000 by trainer Bill Spawr for a partnership that includes Allen Racing LLC, Bloom Racing LLC, Tom Acker and Jon Lindo, finished three lengths clear of Phantom Proton. Her place price was $2.40.
Completing the order of finish were Best of Me and Turkish Tabby.
Jockey Asa Espinoza tripled Saturday to move into a tie with fellow apprentice Heriberto Figueroa atop the rider standings entering the final five days of the Summer Thoroughbred Festival. Both have eight wins.
Espinoza swept the early double with favored Rockaway in the first and 7-1 shot Jersey’s Heat in the second before taking the fourth on 8-1 outsider Bonneville Flats.