Merneith Upsets Ce Ce in Santa Monica Stakes

February 5, 2022

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 5, 2022)–The defending champ but a decided underdog, Merneith went to the front, shook off a challenge from heavily favored Ce Ce and went on to a powerful three length win in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes under Edwin Maldonado.  Trained by Bob Baffert, the 5-year-old daughter of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah got seven furlongs in 1:22.39.

Fresh off victory in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Nov. 6, Ce Ce was the overwhelming 1-2 favorite but was no match for Merneith when the real running commenced leaving the quarter pole.

“I’m very happy,” said Maldonado, who was aboard for last year’s Santa Monica win and who registered his eighth win at the meet, which puts him in tie for seventh in the jockey standings.  “I just want to thank Bob for leaving me on her…It means a lot to me.

“I was just letting her do everything on her own, I didn’t want to take anything away from her.  When (Ce Ce) came (to) her, she saw her and picked it up on her own.  I didn’t even have to ask her.  I’m very pleased…When we turned for home, I was pretty sure she was the winner.  I didn’t even ask her until she switched leads.  She’s a nice filly.”

Idle since last year’s Santa Monica on Feb. 13, Merneith came back to run second, beaten 1 ¾ lengths in the ungraded Kalookan Queen Stakes on Jan. 2 and was off as the 5-2 second choice today in a field of five older fillies and mares, returning $7.60, $2.80 and $2.10.

“She won this race last year and she needed her last race,” said Baffert, who now has a meet-leading six stakes wins.  “Edwin gets along with her great and it was a perfect pace for her…I’ve always thought highly of her.  She got to prove it today, she beat a good field of fillies.  I’m so proud of her.  You get attached to these fillies, especially (when they’re by) American Pharoah.”

Owned by HRH Prince Sultan Bin Mishal Al Saud, Merneith, in notching her second graded stakes victory, improved her overall mark to 12-5-4-2.  With the winner’s share of $120,000, she increased her earnings to $493,620.

Ce Ce, who broke well and appeared to be in perfect position while third, about 1 ½ lengths off the winner three furlongs out, appeared to draw within a neck at the top of the lane, but was unable to get on terms as Merneith seemed to find another gear.

Trained by Michael McCarthy and ridden by Victor Espinoza, Ce Ce, who according to owner/breeder Bo Hirsch, will run through her 6-year-old year, paid $2.10 and $2.10 while finishing 3 ¾ lengths in front of Kalypso.

Kalypso, who broke from the rail, checked in third, 5 ½ lengths better than Park Avenue.  Trained by Baffert and ridden by John Velazquez, Kalypso was off at 9-2 and paid $2.10 to show.

Fractions, all set by the winner, were 22.39, 45.75 and 1:09.98.

Santa Anita Press Release

Photo: Merneith (Benoit Photo)

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