BAFFERT'S CONVEYANCE GETS EDUCATION IN SAN RAFAEL WIN; PAPA CLEM, AMEN HALLELUJAH VICTORIOUS IN GRADE II EVENTS

ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 16, 2010) – Unbeaten Conveyance, one of trainer Bob Baffert’s top Triple Crown candidates behind his pro-tem leader, Lookin At Lucky, won Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita as expected, but the 3-10 favorite gained an education in the process.

In a pair of Grade II stakes on the Saturday program, Papa Clem, fourth in last year’s Kentucky Derby, notched his first victory since last April’s Arkansas Derby when outdueling Smart Bid in the San Fernando Stakes and jockey Chantal Sutherland achieved her greatest triumph at Santa Anita when guiding Amen Hallelujah to a mild upset in the Santa Ynez Stakes.

Conveyance’s margin of victory in the San Rafael’s field of five was 1 ¾ lengths over Cardiff Giant. The final clocking for one mile was 1:36.45. But there was much more to it than the numbers.

Garrett Gomez sent the son of Indian Charlie to the lead at the outset and promptly put the grey colt in cruising gear. But nearing the far turn, they encountered a stirring challenge on the inside from Cardiff Giant, at 13-1 the longest shot in the field.

Victor Espinoza pushed Cardiff Giant through an opening along the rail. The Yankee Gentleman offspring, who had won 2 of 9 previous starts, suddenly was a head in front of the odds-on favorite.

But, as the runners straightened away into the stretch, Conveyance responded to the challenge and, despite lugging in, steadily drew clear under strong handling by Gomez.

“I knew Victor was going to try to pressure me at some point,” Gomez said afterward. “I went to the fence going into the first turn and he left me alone. Speed really hasn’t been doing too well on this track, so I was hoping I didn’t get too much pressure early.” Early fractions included splits of 24.45, 48.56 and 1:12.69

“I came off the fence going down the backside,” Gomez continued, “and I decided to leave it open going to the far turn because I didn’t want my horse to be down on top of the fence with another horse pressing me. He got a little tired the last sixteenth. This race was a good learning curve for him.”

Said Baffert, “He did get a little tired today, but I didn’t get a chance to work him a mile. I thought he was good enough to win this without working him too far, and he was.”

In winning his first start around two turns, Conveyance paid $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10. Cardiff Giant, who defeated Domonation by three-quarters of a length for the place, paid $5.20 and $3. The show price on Domonation, ridden by Joel Rosario, was $2.40.

The victorious purse of $60,000 raised Conveyance’s earnings to $134,400 from his perfect record in three trips to the post. Baffert did not indicate where the colt owned by Zabeel Racing International Corporation might surface next.

For those opting to stay in Southern California, the San Rafael is a commonly used steppingstone to the Gr. I Santa Anita Derby, which will be run April 3.

Papa Clem, sent off as the 3-2 favorite after a third-place prep in the Grade I Malibu at seven furlongs on opening day, proved best in a stretch-long duel in the 58th running of the San Fernando at 1 1/16 miles. Papa Clem, ridden by Tyler Baze, and 6-1 Smart Bid, handled by Mike Smith, pretty much had the race to themselves among a field of eight 4-year-olds.

Smith propelled Smart Bid directly to the front with Papa Clem pursuing in second. The latter gained a short lead entering the stretch, tried to inch away, but Smart Bid fought back before Papa Clem ground out a half-length win in the closing yards. The final time was 1:42.64. It was 1 ¼ lengths back to Rendezvous and jockey Rafael Bejarano in third.

“I rode my horse with a lot of confidence,” Baze said in the winner’s circle. “I didn’t want to get in a speed duel with Mike Smith around the first turn because we would have just killed each other off. I lost this horse last year when I broke my shoulder, and it’s a blessing to get back on him. He’s so game, and you can do anything with him.”

“I was a little nervous (through the stretch),” said Gary Stute, who trains Papa Clem, “just because he doesn’t remind me of a horse that’s going to open up on them. I was afraid somebody that he wouldn’t see might come get him late. But he showed a lot of heart, so I was really happy.”

Papa Clem paid $5, $3 and $2.60. Smart Bid, who was the field’s third choice, returned $5.80 and $4.60 while Rendezvous paid $4 to show.

The $200,000 Strub Stakes is the likely next target for Papa Clem, a son of Smart Strike as is Smart Bid. Owned by Bo Hirsch, Papa Clem’s win may have only been his third in 13 starts, but he was a millionaire entering the San Fernando. The winning purse of $90,000 increased the total to $1,121,190.

In the Santa Ynez, Chantal Sutherland gained her first graded stakes victory at Santa Anita when the Canadian-based jockey drove 3-1 Amen Hallelujah to a three-quarters of a length win over 2-1 second choice Franny Freud in the 57th running of the seven-furlong event for 3-year-old fillies.

After finishing third in a pair of Grade I stakes at 1 1/16 miles, the cutback in distance seemed to suit the Montbrook filly who rallied from fourth in the field of six to cross the wire in 1:21.39.

Franny Freud, with Gomez aboard, finished one-half length ahead of Switch with Bejarano in the saddle. She’s Funomenal, the heretofore unbeaten 3-2 favorite, set the pace under Rosario before yielding her lead nearing the far turn and fading to fifth.

Amen Hallelujah, owned by IEAH Stables and Whizway Farms, rewarded her backers with payoffs of $8.40, $4.20 and $3.20. Franny Freud paid $3.40 and $3.20. Switch returned $4.20 to show.

Sutherland, one of the leading riders at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, is riding her third season at the Santa Anita meet. Her only previous stakes win at the track was achieved in the 2008 Irish O’Brien Stakes atop Lightmyfirebaby. The 33-year-old jockey’s only previous graded stakes victory in the United States came aboard Smokume in the Grade II Tom Fool Handicap at Belmont Park in 2005.

She found her trip aboard Amen Hallelujah relatively easy. “I hate to say it,” she said, “but she’s really easy to ride. She’s calm, cool and you don’t have to do much as a jockey. I could see they were really going fast on the lead, and I loved it. It was like watching a movie, the way it set up. It couldn’t have been any better. The move my filly made was just fantastic.”

Amen Hallelujah, who made her first four starts last year at Arlington Park in Chicago, earned $90,000 to bring her career total to $222,370 from an overall record of 3-1-2 in seven starts. It was the first time Sutherland had ridden the Florida-bred filly trained by Richard Dutrow Jr.

Santa Anita offers a nine-race program on Sunday with the Grade II El Encino Stakes marking the return to California of 2008 champion 2-year-old filly Stardom Bound. First post is at 12:30 p.m.

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