APRIL PRIDE TAKES CHINA DOLL AS 7-10 CHOICE SAUCEY EVENING FOURTH

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 8, 2009) – A close third behind sophomore superstar Stardom Bound in last month’s Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes, 7-10 favorite Saucey Evening was expected to have an easy time of it Sunday in Santa Anita’s $78,460 China Doll Stakes at one mile on turf, but she wound up a distant fourth behind British-import April Pride.

The 7-2 second choice in a field of seven 3-year-olds, April Pride rallied strongly around the far turn under David Flores and crossed the wire two lengths ahead of Acting Lady with Century Park another length back in third. The winning time was 1:35.40.

After trailing until midstretch, Saucey Evening made up some modest ground under Garrett Gomez, but still wound up 3 ¾ lengths behind the winner.

Flores sent April Pride to the lead nearing the far turn, and the Forging Oaks Farms import dominated her competition the rest of the way after having finished second in her previous two races.

“I had a good position and going to the half-mile pole, they started coming back to me like they were stopping,” said Flores. “I didn’t want to move too soon, but I also didn’t want to strangle my filly, so I moved out and just let her run along.

“Around the turn, I decided to just go ahead and get away from the favorite. Turning for home, she was full of run, and she finished great.”

Gomez couldn’t explain Saucey Evening’s dull showing. “She just kind of went through the motions,” he said. “I don’t have any kind of answers.”

Saucey Evening’s lackluster effort skewered the across-the-board mutuels. The winner paid $9, $4.80 and $7.60. Acting Lady, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, returned $8.40 and $15.20. The show price on Century Park, with John Velazquez aboard, was $14.20.

After finishing third in a Group III event at Goodwood Racecourse in England last August, trainer James Cassidy purchased April Pride on behalf of James Peyton, of Lexington, Ky., who races as Forging Oaks Farm. On Sunday, she gained her first U.S. victory in her fourth start in this country.

“It’s great to win this race,” Cassidy said afterward. “It’s the most fun in the world. I was concerned she might flatten out, but I have confidence in David Flores. He’s the most reliable rider I have, along with Mike Smith.”

The winning purse of $45,840 elevated April Pride’s earnings to $125,927 from a 2-5-1 record in 11 career starts.

After dark days on Monday and Tuesday, Santa Anita will resume racing on Wednesday with an eight-race program that gets underway at 1 p.m.

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