WELKEN KEEPS ON ROLLING WITH NECK VICTORY IN TURF FEATURE

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 18, 2010) – A virtual money machine each time she runs, 6-year-old mare Welken expanded on her remarkable consistency Thursday with a neck victory over Hermione’s Magic in Santa Anita’s $52,800 feature for fillies and mares at one mile on turf.

Running the distance in 1:35.50 with Mike Smith aboard, 8-5 favored Welken bettered her record to 9-9-4 in 26 career races. In order to find the last time the Sky Classic mare finished out of the money, one would need to go back nearly two years and 16 races.

Smith put her a bit closer than usual in Thursday’s field of seven while tracking early pace-setter Sheza Maneater. She assumed command nearing the far turn and gamely resisted the closing bid of 5-2 second choice Hermione’s Magic with Rafael Bejarano in the irons.

“This mare is really better when she can make a run at someone instead of having them come at her,” Smith said afterward. “The way it worked out though, I couldn’t get her covered up because there wasn’t much pace. We got an easy quarter (mile) and then an easy half, and I just decided to punch it when we turned for home. She got to wandering around, but we were able to hold ’em off.”

Welken returned mutuels of $5.20, $2.80 and $2.10. Hermione’s Magic, who was coming out of three stakes races, paid $3.40 and $2.60. Zilla, who finished 1 ½ lengths further back in third with Joel Rosario aboard, paid $4 to show.

It was Welken’s second victory in addition to a second-place finish since being claimed by trainer Mike Mitchell on behalf of Nick Alexander last Dec. 31.

“Mike rode a great race, and that’s why I don’t like to give instructions,” Mitchell said in the winner’s circle. “I like to let them figure it out. If we can get another race like this, we’ll try to run her back before the end of the meet (April 18).”

The winning purse of $31,200 elevated Welken’s career earnings to $245,879.

Santa Anita’s popular “Free Fridays” promotion continues on Friday when admission is free as are box seats on a first come, first served basis. Hot dogs, sodas, beer, popcorn and coffee are offered at $1 each. First post for the program of eight races is at 1 p.m.

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