ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 17, 2022)–Bottled up at the rail as the 1-5 favorite, French-bred Neige Blanche and jockey Juan Hernandez had but one option–wait out the storm. And wait they did, as the 5-year-old mare was able to finally split horses two from the rail turning for home and then overcome a 2 ½ length deficit a furlong out to run down Flavien Prat and Disappearing Act by one length in Monday’s Grade III, $125,000 Astra Stakes at Santa Anita. Trained by French native Leonard Powell, Neige Blanche (White Snow) got a marathon mile and one half on turf in 2:32.27.
With the Astra start transferred earlier today from the hillside course to a flat start on the backstretch, Frose bounded out to an early lead with Disappearing Act and Neige Blanche in close attendance. With nowhere to go with five sixteenths of a mile remaining, Neige Blanche had to bide her time while the back markers, Reiwa and Scherzo actually passed her approaching the quarter pole.
“The trip worked out pretty good for her because she likes to run like that,” said Hernandez, who has now ridden Neige Blanche in her last seven races, winning four of them. “Just put her behind horses and she was happy the whole race. I was just waiting for some space to come through and make her run, because as soon as she finds (room), you just put her in there and she just comes right through like she did today.
“I put a lot of trust in her and in Leonard to have her ready. I felt like I had a lot of horse. We were just waiting for something to open up. She’s a nice filly, she was ready today.”
A winner of the Grade III Red Carpet Handicap going 1 3/8 miles on turf at Del Mar Nov. 25, Neige Blanche, heavily favored in a field of five older mares, paid $2.60, $2.10 and $2.10.
Owned by Madaket Stables, LLC, Laura De Seroux, Marsha Naify and Mathilde Powell, Neige Blanche registered her third graded stakes win and fourth overall added money win, running her overall mark to 16-7-0-3. With the winner’s share of $75,000, she increased her earnings to $390,280.
“I was cursing my country and (fellow Frenchman) Flavien a little bit to open the hole, but she was there when Juan asked her and she’s a very game filly, she’s all-out,” said Powell, who suffered the recent loss of his father, a prominent bloodstock agent in France. “In the first of the spring, we have races here (at Santa Anita) that are spaced apart four or five weeks, so we will do that and if she does well, maybe we will try to look at a Grade I somewhere down the road.
When asked by TVG’s Joaquin Jaime about the death of his father, Powell responded, “My father has done a lot for racing in France, and me being here is part of him. And my daughter (Mathilde) being here, that’s another part of him. My brothers and stepbrother back in France, we all live on with all that he told us. He was a great man to all and I hope we make him proud.”
The second choice with Prat at 3-1, Disappearing Act nearly pulled off the upset, finishing six lengths clear of English-bred Scherzo and paid $2.80 and $2.10.
Last early, Scherzo, who shipped in from Golden Gate Fields for trainer Manny Badilla, was off at 22-1 with Kyle Frey up and paid $3.60 to show while finishing 2 ¼ lengths in front of early pacesetter Frose.
Fractions on the race were 25.99, 51.35, 1:16.99, 1:42.70 and 2:08.06.
Live racing resumes with first post time for an eight-race card on Friday at 12:30 p.m.
Santa Anita Park Press Release
Photo: Neige Blanche (Benoit Photo)