ARCADIA, Calif. – With a recent race under her belt, Gary and Mary West’s homebred Fighting Mad went to lead and never looked back in a dominant 3 ¼ length win in Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita. Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Abel Cedillo, the 4-year-old daughter of New Year’s Day got a mile and one sixteenth in a rapid 1:42.12 as heavily favored Ce Ce tired to finish third while a persnickety Hard Not to Love checked in second.
“She needed her last race and she had trained well coming into this,” said Baffert, regarding Fighting Mad’s third place finish in the six furlong Grade III Desert Stormer here on May 17–her first start since winning the Grade III Torrey Pines Stakes by eight lengths on Aug. 17 at Del Mar. “We’ve always been high on her and today, I told the jock to put her on the lead, that’s where she wants to be.
“She can be a little headstrong, but I could see turning for home, I knew she was gonna be tough to beat. Today, she ran like she did at Del Mar, that’s a really good time on this track.”
Off as the fourth betting choice in a field of five fillies and mares at 10-1, Fighting Mad paid $22.20, $6.40 and $3.20.
“When she broke, she broke like a rocket, so I was just trying to slow her down,” said Cedillo, who was aboard for the first time today and who picked up his meet-leading 10th stakes win. “I know I went a little fast, but she did it on her own. The first race I watched was a ride by Joe Talamo (her victory in the Grade III Torrey Pines two starts back on Aug. 17). She was doing the same thing, he didn’t budge (on) her and she won by eight. In her other race (a second place finish in a six furlong allowance on July 19) she was looking around, which she did today, but in the stretch, she just did it easy.”
Out of the Forestry mare Smokey’s Love, Fighting Mad notched her second graded stakes win and her fourth victory from seven overall starts. With the winner’s share of $120,000, she increased her earnings to $294,008.
Second to Ce Ce in the Grade I Beholder Mile on March 14, the John Shirreffs-trained Hard Not to Love, who races without the use of her left eye, proved a handful on post parade under Mike Smith, as she at several points, refused to proceed to the starting gate from the top of the stretch. After a delay of about five minutes, she was coaxed into joining her competitors and from there, gave a good account of herself as she rallied from last, about five lengths off the lead three furlongs from home, overtaking Ce Ce inside the sixteenth pole.
Off as the 5-2 second choice, she paid $4.00 and $2.40 while finishing 2 ¼ lengths in front of Ce Ce.
A winner of three in a row, including a pair Grade I tallies in the Beholder Mile and most recently, the Apple Blossom Handicap on April 18 at Oaklawn Park, Ce Ce, who was unable to get on terms with the winner while hard ridden a quarter mile out, was off at 3-5 with Victor Espinoza and paid $2.10 to show.
Fractions, all set by the winner, were 23.25, 46.49, 1:10.09 and 1:35.34.
Racing resumes with a three-day on Friday at Santa Anita. First post time for an eight-race card is at 12:30 p.m. For additional information, please visit santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.
Santa Anita Press Release
Photo: Fighting Mad: Credit: Benoit Photos