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BELMONT CAT SURGES IN SANTA ANA AS FRANKEL DOMINANCE DIMMED
ARCADIA, Calif. (March 22, 2009) – Belmont Cat, a 5-year-old New Zealand-bred import trained by John Sadler, on Sunday interrupted Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel’s domination of Santa Anita’s Grade II, $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap when rallying between rivals to emerge victorious in a four-horse photo finish.
With Joel Rosario in the saddle, Belmont Cat nodded fastest-closing Bel Air Sizzle by a head with Frankel’s 7-10 favorite, Vista, another neck back and a head ahead of Satan’s Circus in a dramatic conclusion of the turf event for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles. The winning time was 1:48.68.
It was the first graded stakes victory for Doubledown Stable’s chestnut mare who had raced consistently but with little distinction in her native New Zealand before coming to the United States late last year. She promptly won an allowance race before finishing an unremarkable fifth in the Grade II San Gorgonio Handicap at Santa Anita on Jan. 4.
Belmont Cat launched her winning bid in the stretch Sunday after tracking in third. A final surge denied Bel Air Sizzle and jockey Rafael Bejarano who were closing furiously on the extreme outside after having broken awkwardly and trailing in the field of seven.
Visit, with Garrett Gomez aboard, settled for third while unable to generate quite enough momentum with her rally between horses. For an instant, it appeared that 6-1 second choice Satan’s Circus might be making a winning move on the outside, but she flattened out significantly in the closing stages.
Juddmonte Farms’ British-bred Visit, thus, remained winless in four starts in this country after a promising stateside debut when a close fourth in October’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita after leading briefly in the stretch.
As a result, Frankel was unable to expand his domination of the race his horses had won eight of the past 17 years. Gomez, meanwhile, remained two victories shy of Santa Anita’s seasonal record of 19 stakes wins during a single season that is shared by Laffit Pincay Jr. (1982-83) and Corey Nakatani (1996-97).
Belmont Cat returned $20.40, $9.20 and $3.80 for her victory. The mutuels on Bel Air Sizzle were $6 and $3 while Visit paid $2.20 to show.
Recalling his earlier experience with Belmont Cat following her U.S. arrival, Sadler said, “She trained really, really well for her first race. I was a little disappointed last time (San Gorgonio), but there wasn’t much pace and she was up close. I think she wants to sit back and kick, so we really tried to emphasize that today in this race. Joel has been working with her the last couple of works, and I just told him to wait with her.”
Said Rosario, “She’s a nice filly, and she seemed like she was feeling really well today. She was pulling me a little going to the far turn, but she was pretty relaxed most of the way, and that’s why she finished so well. I was a little worried when we were between horses late, but she really kicked it in.”
The winning purse of $90,000 was substantially more than Belmont Cat had earned in her nine previous races. It raised her career earnings to $156,525 from an overall record of 4-2-0 in ten starts.
Santa Anita will be dark on Monday and Tuesday before racing resumes with an eight-race program on Wednesday that commences at 1 p.m.