Private Mission and jockey Juan Hernandez win the Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita
She’s back. Well beaten in her last three starts, Private Mission broke sharply, pressed the early pace, and kicked on through lane in taking the $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes (G2) Saturday at Santa Anita by three-quarters of a length.
Private Mission scored under leading rider Juan Hernandez, who collected his 102nd victory of the Winter/Spring Meet.
Originally trained by the currently suspended Bob Baffert, Sean McCarthy handled the saddling duties Saturday as Baoma Corp.’s 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief got 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.46 on a fast track.
With Lady Mystify going to the front from her rail post under Edwin Maldonado, Private Mission sat second a 1 ½ lengths back midway around the first turn.
One length back at the half mile mark, Private Mission cruised up outside the pacesetter and had a one length edge straightening for home. Never threatened in the final three-sixteenths of a mile, Private Mission was best on the day as recent Grade 2 winner Blue Stripe finished second.
“She broke really sharp and as soon as she saw Lady Mystify in front of me, she relaxed and she was just waiting for me to ask her to go,” said Hernandez, who collected his meet-leading 23rd stakes win . “I’m really happy because I’m doing really well. I just want to thank all the owners and trainers for supporting me. I really appreciate it. I just love to win and ride horses.”
A two-time graded stakes winner last year at age three, Private Mission, who was distanced three starts back in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) Nov. 6 and soundly beaten in a pair of sprints earlier this meet—the La Brea (G1) on Dec. 26 and the Las Flores (G3) on March 13—was nonetheless off as the 7-5 favorite in a field of six fillies and mares and paid $4.80.
“I watched her break and it was perfect,” said McCarthy. “Private Mission had been training great and full credit to all the crew, Jimmy (Barnes) and everyone. They have done a great job with her and she’s come along well. …We passed a race up in New York to stay for this race, which ended up being the right decision. …”
A $750,000 yearling purchase from Lane’s End at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton New York Select Yearling Sale at Saratoga, Private Mission, in getting her third graded stakes win, improved her overall mark to 5-1-0 from nine starts. With the winner’s share of $120,000, her earnings increased to $397,300.
Blue Stripe, attentive to the pace, got a pocket trip while third approaching the quarter, swung three-wide and outgamed McCarthy’s Varda for second money under Tyler Baze. Considering that Blue Stripe got quite a bit of dirt in her face throughout, she ran big race to hold Varda safe by a half length.
A winner of the Santa Margarita (G2) at 1 1/8 miles on April 30, Argentine-bred Blue Stripe was the second choice at 8-5.
Ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, third-place finisher Varda finished 4 ½ lengths in front of Lady Mystify.
The Santa Maria trophy was presented by legendary Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye. In from Louisiana with his wife, Juanita, to visit family, “Eddie D.” sported a New Orleans Saints cap and received a rousing welcome from the crowd when introduced by track announcer Frank Mirahmadi.