SANTA MONICA STAKES | PURSE: $250,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | GRADE 2 | 7 FURLONGS
Ted and Judy Nichols' homebred Teddy's Promise romped by 5 1/4 lengths in the Kalookan Queen to close out 2012 and opened her five-year-old season in the same fashion with an easy score in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,500 Santa Monica at Santa Anita. The dark bay mare ran fifth in this race last year when it was a Grade 1, but was the 3-2 favorite to win this time around under jockey Victor Espinoza.
"She set up very well for me. She broke a little slow out of the gate but it was good for me," Espinoza said. "That's what I wanted, a chance to move to the outside. There were two horses in front of me and I just tracked them. At the three-eighths pole I kind of just let her do her own thing, and turning for home I just let her run.
"She's an unbelievable filly and I know Ron [Ellis] is the best in training her. When she's good she can beat anybody. She and I have been getting along the few times I rode her. I know how she likes to run and she ran big in the last race and then again today. Hopefully she has come back as herself."
Kindle set the pace through fractions of :22 4/5, :45 3/5 and 1:09 3/5 while closely tracked by Distracting and Teddy's Promise. Distracting started to fade, but Teddy's Promise was still going strong, drawing even with Kindle rounding the turn. The Salt Lake mare appeared ready to blow on by, but Kindle fought back on the inside.
The duo briefly dueled before Teddy's Promise put her rival away and pulled away to stop the clock in 1:22 3/5 for seven furlongs on the sealed, wet-fast dirt. She gave back $5, $3.40 and $2.40 to her many supporters.
Sugarinthemorning got up to take second from Kindle by a half-length, while Distracting finished another three parts of a length back in fourth. Belle of the Hall, Journaliste and Pink Lollipops completed the order under the wire after Byrama and Rumor were both scratched.
"I knew we would have to earn it; we wouldn't be given anything, and I couldn't be prouder of my filly," trainer Gary Mandella said of Kindle's performance. "That's as good as she can run going seven-eighths. We knew we might be running her a little bit past her optimal distance; that's what we proved today. But she also proved she has a lot of heart. A perfect, trip, a perfect ride. That's the best I can expect from this filly."
Teddy's Promise is now 8-2-1 from 21 career starts and has accumulated $634,981 in lifetime earnings. In addition to this one and the Kalookan Queen, she's also captured the Grade 1 La Brea in 2011 and last season's Time to Leave.
"She's back in form," trainer Ron Ellis asserted. "I think that last race kind of got her a lot of confidence. She's really starting to relax and mature mentally. Physically, she's always been quite a specimen, but mentally she's really turned a corner for us.
"I certainly don't think the mud hurts her. Her last one was on a little bit of a wet track. This was a muddier track today, but she won a Grade 1 on a fast track, so I think here at Santa Anita on the regular dirt it's a little bit better fit."
The California-bred filly is out of the Capote mare Braids and Beads, who is a half-sister to Grade 3-scoring sire General Meeting. Her third dam is Grade 3 vixen Summertime Promise, and this female line also includes multiple Grade 2 hero and top sire Carson City as well as Grade 1 victor Danger's Hour.