ARCADIA, Calif. —Recently arrived from her Fair Hill Farm training base in Maryland, trainer Graham Motion’s Ouraika got a perfect ground saving trip and showed tremendous heart late to prevail by a head in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Sweet Life Stakes, which was run at about 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Ouraika got the trip in 1:13.98.
Unhurried while in hand out of the gate, Ouraika was into the bridle passing the half mile pole. A close-up fifth, about 1 ½ lengths off pacesetter Baby Steps at the dirt crossing, Hernandez was able to split horses two from the rail a sixteenth out and prevailed late in a thriller over Flavien Prat and Urban.
“She settled really nicely and she handled it really well,” said Alice Claphan, assistant to Motion. “Juan said she did everything he wanted and when she came across the dirt, he was going to go out, but then the rail opened up and he snuck through there…She’ll get back home and then we’ll sort out where they want to go with her.”
One for three in her native France, Ouraika had been idle since finishing a close second in her second start for Motion, a first condition allowance going six furlongs on turf Dec. 3 at Aqueduct. Off as the fourth choice in a field of 10 sophomore fillies at 9-2, Ouraika paid $11.40, $4.80 and $3.00.
Owned by Madaket Stables and Michael Dubb, Ouraika, in getting her first graded stakes win, now has two wins and as many seconds from six starts. With the winner’s share of $60,000, she increased her earnings to $100,019.
“She was really professional and just did everything by herself,” said Hernandez. “I was just having fun on top of her…I saw the number nine (Urban) to my outside in the middle of the track and after the wire I said, ‘It was pretty close but I think I got it.’”
The second choice in the betting at 2-1, Urban, fresh off a maiden score down the hill Jan. 8, appeared to have the winner measured inside the sixteenth pole, but couldn’t get by her. Trained by Simon Callaghan, Urban finished 1 ½ lengths clear of race favorite Kitty Kitana and paid $3.60 and $2.40.
Ridden by John Velazquez, Kitty Kitana, who was mid-pack early, was off at 9-5 and paid $2.60 to show while finishing 1 ¼ lengths in front of longshot Ellamira.
Fractions on the Sweet Life were 22.21, 44.68 and 1:07.92.
The meet’s runaway leading rider, Prat won three races on the day, giving him 50 for the meet, well-up on Velazquez at 26.
GRADE III, $100,000 SWEET LIFE STAKES QUOTES
JUAN HERNANDEZ, OURAIKA, WINNER: “I learned a lot, but she’s a really intelligent filly. She did everything by herself. In the warmup I took her by herself, and she was doing everything really good. Today she broke really sharp. She’s a really professional filly. I just broke out of there and she was really sharp, I was in a really good position. I was waiting for some room to open up to come through. When we crossed the dirt, some room opened inside and we just came through.
“I saw the number nine (Urban) to my outside in the middle of the track and after the wire I said, ‘It was pretty close but I think I got it.’ And when I came around I saw my number and it was really fun.
“She was really professional and just did everything by herself. I was just having fun on top of her. I’d like to thank Graham Motion and the owners for this big opportunity, she’s a really nice filly, thanks a lot.”
ALICE CLAPHAN, ASSISTANT TO GRAHAM MOTION: “She settled really nicely and she handled it really well. Juan said she did everything he wanted and when she came across the dirt, he was going to go out and then the rail opened, so he snuck through there. Graham spoke with me this morning and said, ‘She’s pretty uncomplicated, so leave it up to (Juan), let her settle and then go from there.’ She’ll go back home and then we’ll sort out where they want to go with her. We came out here to try the sprint and down the hill to see how she would handle it. So this opens up a few options for us.”
NOTES: The winning owners are Madaket Stables, LLC and Michael Dubb.
Santa Anita Press Release
Photo: Ouraika wins the Sweet Life: Benoit Photo