Linda’s Gift Leads All the Way in Marathon $100K Astra

January 21, 2024

Linda’s Gift gate-to-wire in the Astra (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Mike Willman/Santa Anita Press Box

ARCADIA, Calif.— Fully committed to making the lead in the short run down Santa Anita’s hillside turf, Richard Mandella’s Linda’s Gift led the entire trip in Sunday’s marathon $100,000 Astra Stakes, getting a mile and one half in 2:28.49 under Tiago Pereira while holding Musical Rhapsody safe by 1 ½ lengths.

Breaking from post position six in a field of seven older fillies and mares, Linda’s Gift was hustled to the lead and although a bit keen early, settled nicely as the field crossed under the wire for the first time. In command by a length and one half over French-bred Leisurewear three furlongs out, she shook clear at the furlong pole and waltzed home in a dominant performance.

A similar gate to wire winner under Pereira going a mile and three eighths on turf in Del Mar’s Grade III Red Carpet Stakes Nov. 23, Linda’s Gift was the 8-5 post time favorite today and returned $5.00, $3.00 and $2.20.

A 5-year-old mare by Arrogate out of the Tapit mare Americana, Linda’s Gift is owned by John Cronin, Anthony DiMarco, Michael Mandara, Fred Nicotra and Vincent Varvaro.

In notching her second career stakes win, Linda’s Gift, who now has three wins and a second from six starts with Mandella, is 12-4-2-2 overall. With today’s winner’s share of $60,000, she increased her earnings to $254,936.

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Irish-bred Musical Rhapsody got a perfect stalking trip under Mike Smith as she saved ground to the top of the lane, put in a solid bid three-deep but never threatened the winner.

Off at 5-1, she paid $4.60 and $2.80.

Last year’s winner, Irish-bred Duvet Day, lodged a mild bid from off the pace but ended up third, 2 ½ lengths behind Musical Rhapsody.

Ridden by Kazushi Kimura, Duvet Day was off at 3-1 and paid $3.00 to show.

Fractions on the race were 23.52, 47.05, 1:13.30, 1:38.18 and 2:03.87.

Live racing resumes at Santa Anita on Friday, with first post time for an eight-race card at 12:30 p.m.

$100,000 ASTA STAKES QUOTES

JOCKEY QUOTES

To the winner’s circle after the Astra (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

TIAGO PEREIRA, LINDA’S GIFT, WINNER: “This mare she was little more nervous today in the walk behind the gate, but she broke well and relaxed. She took to the bridle, and I didn’t fight her just angled her out and after she crossed the dirt, she got more comfortable. The pace was good. He name is Linda’s Gift, but she was my gift today. Thank you to the owners and to Richard (Mandella) for the opportunity.”

TRAINER QUOTES

RICHARD MADELLA, LINDA’S GIFT, WINNER: “She’s just a mare that’s got a lot of ability. She has a lot of stamina and she’s a little bit silly sometimes, but when she gets her game together, she’s pretty tough.

“She left the gate there the first eighth of a mile like she was just going to settle, and she said, ‘This isn’t my thing’, and just took off and (Tiago Pereira) did such a great job of just settling her down like that and not fighting her. I know I say this often, but the owners have been so patient to let us get through this and here we are today. That’s what we all need to do.”

NOTES: The winning owners are John Cronin, Anthony DiMarco, Michael A Mandara, Fred Nicotra, and Vincent Varvaro.

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