WITH LIFE IS SWEET OUT, CAT BY THE TALE BEST IN SAN GORGONIO

ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 2, 2010) – With Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic champion Life Is Sweet a late scratch after she “tied up” with muscle cramps in the morning, third-choice Cat by the Tale stepped up to register her first stakes win with a decisive, 2 ½-length triumph in Santa Anita’s 41st running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Ridden by Joel Rosario, the 5-year-old mare tracked the tepid early pace of Century Park, took the lead turning into the stretch and came home strongly for a final clocking of 1:48.17 before an on-track of 11,068.

ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 2, 2010) – With Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic champion Life Is Sweet a late scratch after she “tied up” with muscle cramps in the morning, third-choice Cat by the Tale stepped up to register her first stakes win with a decisive, 2 ½-length triumph in Santa Anita’s 41st running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Ridden by Joel Rosario, the 5-year-old mare tracked the tepid early pace of Century Park, took the lead turning into the stretch and came home strongly for a final clocking of 1:48.17 before an on-track of 11,068.

Treat Gently, who had the misfortune of her saddle slipping while racing down the backside under jockey Rafael Bejarano, nevertheless gathered herself to gain the place, a head in front of 16-1 longshot Rosa Grace.

Diamondrella, who inherited the favorite’s role at 2-1 after Life Is Sweet was scratched, had to race wide around the final turn and finished fifth, two noses behind Rosa Grace and jockey Joe Talamo.

“She had a perfect trip,” Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale said of the winner. “When Joel asked her, she cut away. I just told him to track the speed horse (Century Park, who wound up last in the field of seven). And that he did.”

“Neil said that I could probably lay second or third early,” said Rosario. “I didn’t want anybody to get an easy lead, and I wanted to make sure I put some pressure on. She got to the three-eighths pole easy. I wanted to make the lead at the quarter-pole and she did the rest.”

Cat by the Tale returned mutuels of $7.60, $3.60 and $2.80. Treat Gently paid $3.60 and $3. The show price on Rosa Grace was $5.40.

Treat Gently, the second choice at 2-1 and making her debut for trainer Bill Mott, might have made a race out of it except for her misfortune with her saddle. Trained by Bobby Frankel until his passing last Nov. 16, Treat Gently didn’t have her best opportunity to strengthen Frankel’s ties to the San Gorgonio. The Hall of Famer had saddled 7 of the past 14 winners and eight overall.

For Cat by the Tale, a 5-year-old daughter of Tale of the Cat owned by Raymond Keogh, the victory was worth $90,000 and elevated her earnings to $248,250 from a 5-1-5 record in 17 starts. She has been in Dysdale’s care for seven races since being imported from Ireland.

In the earlier $66,700 Impressive Luck Handicap, 9-1 shot Cherokee Heaven rallied strongly in the stretch to overtake 3-1 second-choice Mr. Cacht and win the 6 ½-furlong event over the hillside turf course by 1 ¼ lengths.

Jockey Joe Talamo brought the 6-year-old son of Cherokee Run from sixth in the field of eight to steadily wear down Mr. Cacht, ridden by Felipe Valdez, with Stoneside another 1 ¼ lengths back in third. Noble Court, the 5-2 favorite, wound up a well-beaten fifth.

The Impressive Luck marked the first stakes win for the bay horse trained by Marty Jones for the partnership of George Hicker, Doug McClure and the Daniel O. Robinson Family Trust. He covered the downhill distance in a rapid 1:11.84.

“He just didn’t catch the right trip in his last races,” Jones said in explaining three recent setbacks that inflated his odds in the Impressive Luck. “He got the right trip today, and it was just racing luck.”

“I had a perfect trip,” Talamo said. “Marty said to lay close if I wanted to and I did, but they were going faster than we thought they would. It didn’t matter, because my horse was fully loaded the whole way. It was just a matter of when I was going to let him run. Even though we were fairly close-up, I think he came home the last sixteenth in sub-five (seconds). He did it the right way.”

Cherokee Heaven paid $20.80, $8.60 and $5. The payoffs on Mr. Cacht were $5 and $3.60. Stoneside, with Mike Smith aboard, paid $3.40 to show. The winning purse of $39,300 increased the earnings of Cherokee Heaven to $160,200 from a 4-1-2 record in 12 trips to the post.

Tuscan Evening is the 121-pound high weight and 9-5 morning line favorite among 11 fillies and mares set to contest Sunday’s Grade III, $100,000 Monrovia Handicap. First post for the nine-race program is at 12:30 p.m.

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