SANTA BARBARA | PURSE: $150,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | GRADE 3 | 1 1/4-MILES (TURF)
Stormy Lucy made her first start for new owner Steve Moger and trainer Ed Moger Jr. a winning one in Sunday's Grade 3, $150,750 Santa Barbara Handicap at Santa Anita, collaring Miss Serendipity in the final strides to earn her second straight graded victory.
Purchased privately following her graded breakthrough in the March 16 Santa Ana here, Stormy Lucy was dispatched as the 8-5 favorite to follow up. The five-year-old mare was settled in about the midpack point by Rafael Bejarano, content to relax off fractions of :23 ⅗ seconds, :47 ⅖ seconds, 1:11 ⅖ and 1:35 established by 50-1 longshot Phonybooksnrecords. Changethechannel tracked in second, while Miss Serendipity skimmed the rail in a stalking role. Further back along the inside came Customer Base, who was covered up by Stormy Lucy on her flank.
Miss Serendipity angled out turning for home to accost the longtime leader. Customer Base tried to sneak through on the fence, only to get shut off, shuffled back, and never recovered. In contrast, Stormy Lucy, who had profited from a bold rail move in the Santa Ana, took the overland route this time and swung out widest of all into the stretch.
Meanwhile, Miss Serendipity swept to the front and threatened to put the race away. But Stormy Lucy went after the Argentinean Group 1 winner and ran her down by a neck in a climactic finish. After speeding 1 ¼ miles on firm turf in 1:58 ⅗, the favorite returned $5.40 to win.
"I told you, I'm trying not to screw it up," said Moger, who just took over as trainer from Frank Lucarelli. "The horse was ready-made when I got her. Rafael rode the same race as he did winning the Santa Ana. Last time he came inside; this time he went around. I was a little worried when he was that wide, but I guess he knew what he had."
"She was much better today," Bejarano said. "Her last race, she was rank when she was behind horses, but today she relaxed. She and I were really comfortable the whole way, all the way to the three-eighths pole. So, I was confident to come around and let her go. I knew how much horse I had at the three-eighths and I knew she was going to show me a big kick. I just wanted to make sure I was clear and away from any trouble."
Miss Serendipity's connections were happy with her near-miss, the closest she's come to victory in her four U.S. starts.
"She ran her eyeballs out," said Dan Landers, assistant to trainer Ron McAnally. "I think she's getting more used to our racing."
"She got outkicked late," jockey Brice Blanc said, "but she did everything perfect. She was better today, she relaxed a lot and she quickened a lot more, too. She was a little more settled early on and the distance definitely didn't hurt us. Stormy Lucy just outkicked us; my mare ran her heart out. She's still just starting [in the United States]; as soon as she gets adapted to the American way I think she'll have a bright future."
There was a gap of 4 ¼ lengths back to Changethechannel in third. Champagneandcaviar checked in fourth, trailed by Phonybooksnrecords, Floral Romance, Topic and Customer Base.
Stormy Lucy now sports a mark of 22-7-2-3, $482,200. The daughter of Stormy Atlantic went to Frank L. Gaunt for $24,000 as a Barretts May two-year-old in training, and spent her career under the tutelage of Lucarelli. As a three-year-old in 2012, she captured the Golden Poppy at Golden Gate Fields and placed in the Honeymoon Handicap, Del Mar Oaks and Rodeo Drive. She made an ambitious tilt at the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, winding up last of 11, and accordingly got class relief in 2013.
Competing in the name of Erica Gaunt last year, Stormy Lucy romped by four lengths in the October 19 Miss America back at Golden Gate, and was just denied by Customer Base in the December 29 Robert J. Frankel at Santa Anita. She was a troubled fifth in the February 17 Buena Vista before finally recording a Grade 2 win in the Santa Ana, her finale for her original connections.
Moger said Stormy Lucy would be considered for the Grade 1, $300,000 Gamely Stakes at 1 ⅛ miles on turf on May 26.
Bred in Kentucky by Mercedes Stable LLC, Stormy Lucy is the only stakes winner out of the Dixieland Band mare Here Comes Lucinda, who is a half-sister to Grade 3 heroine Moonwalk, Grade 2-placed stakes victress Thatswhatimean and Grade 2 runner-up Atswhatimtalknbout. The latter was a memorable fourth, beaten just two lengths, in the 2003 Kentucky Derby in what turned out to be his final start.