Neige Blanche, ridden by Juan Hernandez, wins the Santa Barbara for second consecutive year
Long-fused Neige Blanche, who like her trainer, was born in France, overhauled familiar rival and favorite Queen Goddess in deep stretch to notch her second consecutive win in the $125,000 Santa Barbara Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita.
Trained by Leonard Powell and ridden by Juan Hernandez, the 5-year-old mare completed 1 ½ miles on turf in 2:27.55.
Queen Goddess, who handily defeated Neige Blanche at 1 1/4 miles on turf in the Santa Ana Stakes (G3) on March 26, went straight to the front in a field of five fillies and mares and appeared to be going easily as she took the field under the wire the first time around.
Neige Blanche, who saved ground throughout, was attentive to the pace and moved into a joint second with Carpe Vinum three furlongs out. Hernandez angled outside the favorite turning for home and gained the advantage inside the sixteenth pole at a distance she clearly relishes.
“My filly loves the distance,” said Hernandez. “You know, she loves running behind horses and that helps her to relax pretty well. Sometimes, when she’s on the outside, in the clear, she tries to run off a little bit. Today, we sat behind the pace and she relaxed well for me. I was just waiting to hit the quarter pole and find a place to run. As soon as we found a hole, she came through, picked it up really nice and we passed the leader.”
Third, beaten 1 ½ lengths by Queen Goddess in the Santa Ana, Neige Blanche was the second choice at 7-5 in the Santa Barbara and paid $4.
“I was very happy with the trip we had,” said Powell. “We discussed with the owners and Juan before the race, we didn’t want the favorite to get away with too much of an advantage like she did last time. We were about two to three lengths (off the pace) which was perfect. We stayed strong which was even better and at the end of the day, the last quarter of a mile, the stamina of my filly played to our advantage.
“She tries really hard. The first words that Juan told me when he came back, he said ‘Wow! She really dug in. She was trying so hard.’ He could feel her lowering herself to the ground and you can see by her demeanor that she really wanted to get there and that is a racehorse.”
Owned by Madaket Stable, Laura De Seroux, Marsh Naify, and Mathilde Powell, Neige Blanche, who is now unbeaten at 1 ½ miles on turf, notched her fifth graded stakes win, which includes a Group 3 win in her final French start on June 6, 2020. With the winner’s share of $75,000, she increased her earnings to $480,280 from an overall mark of 8-0-4 from 18 starts.
With his second win through the first five races on Saturday, Hernandez has a meet-leading 75 victories and he now has 14 stakes wins–one behind Flavien Prat.
Off at 3-5 with Victor Espinoza, Queen Goddess finished 2 ¾ lengths in front of Queen ofthe Temple, who was last early.