SANTA MARGARITA | PURSE: $300,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | GRADE 1 | 1 1/8 MILES
Include Me Out blew past odds-on choice Ellafitz on the turn for home and became a grade I winner with an easy victory in the $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes March 17 on a sloppy track at rainy Santa Anita.
Trained by Ron Ellis for Jay Em Ess Stable, Include Me Out was ridden by Joe Talamo to win by a 3 3/4-length margin. The 4-year-old daughter of Include was coming off a 4 1/4-length victory in the La Canada Stakes Jan. 22.
Love Theway Youare rallied for second with Miss Mittagong third. Ellafitz, who set the pace, faded to finish last. Two scratches reduced the field to four older fillies and mares.
The winning time was 1:47.62 on a sealed main track.
Brereton C. Jones bred the winning dark bay or brown filly in Kentucky. Out of the Mazel Trick mare Don't Trick Her, Include Me Out was purchased for $150,000 as a yearling out of the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale of 2009.
Ellis won the Santa Margarita previously in 1996 with Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wygod's Twice The Vice.
Ellafitz, looking for her fourth consecutive victory for trainer Bob Baffert as a 4-5 pick, seemed to be on an effortless lead for jockey Martin Garcia while cruising through quarter-mile fractions of :23.88, :47.16, and 1:10.62. She was cruising by 1 1/2 lengths over Include Me Out on the backstretch, who was angled off the inside soon after the start.
Include Me Out went for an early run, however, attacking the leader heading into the far turn and taking the advantage midway through the bend. Include Me Out opened up in upper stretch under left-handed urging from Talamo to be in front by four lengths at the furlong mark. She maintained a steady course on a long hold to the wire.
"I think my horse handled the track really well today," Talamo said. "She's by Include, who I think liked the mud. I figured, like daughter, like father, hopefully. She handled it well and I was loaded the whole way."
Love Theway Youare rallied from last at mid-stretch to finish a clear second under Joel Rosario by 3 1/4 lengths over Miss Mittagong and Mario Gutierrez. They finished a head in front of Ellafitz.
"I don't know what happened," Garcia said of Ellafitz. "I guess she just didn't like the track because she is better than she ran today. It wasn't her day.
Ellis stretched Include Me Out to two turns for the first time in the La Canada and she has responded with two impressive graded stakes victories. Her overall mark now stands at 4-2-0 in eight raceswhile banking $263,600. She earned $180,000 for the Santa Margarita win.
"I had a lot of confidence in her, the way she was training," Ellis said. "She was improving in leaps and bounds. I was just worried about the race track. She's got a lot of heart and I know the way she was loping along back there (behind Ellafitz) 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.
"It's been a work in progress to get to this point but it all paid off," Ellis added. "We were playing catch up a little bit on experience."
Samantah Siegel, who owns Jay Em Ess Stable, noted of the winner: "The question was the track. My dad (Mace Siegel) always said if a horse liked the mud, they walked on it. If they didn't they danced. When they came out onto the track, my horse was walking."
Sent off as the 13-10 second choice, Include Me Out paid $4.60 and $5.40 and topped a $24.40 exacta. Love Theway Youare earned her first grade I placing for trainer and owner Myung Kwon Cho and returned $11.80. There was no show wagering.
Scratched were Awesomemundo and Kayce Ace.