It was just like old times at Santa Anita on Saturday, when Neige Blanche put on another show of unstoppable stamina to make it back-to-back wins in the G3 Santa Barbara, her third success at the Los Angeles circuit.
Santa Barbara Stakes
Blanche does it again
Snow White, the sequel.
Neige Blanche returned to Santa Anita on Saturday with a question to answer and a title to retain, and in the space of two and a half minutes she ticked off everything on the to-do list by winning the feature Santa Barbara for the second year running.
In what was perceived as a match before the gates opened and then turned out exactly that way, Neige Blanche made her proven stamina tell when running down odds-on favourite Queen Goddess in deep stretch to score by a length and a quarter, with Queen Ofthe Temple two and three-quarter lengths away in third and never really involved at the sharp end. The time for the mile and a half on fast turf was 2:27 and one-half.
“She loves the distance,” said jockey Juan Hernandez. “She loves running behind horses, and 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.”
Her ability to stretch out is what made those who bet Neige Blanche down to 7-5 second-choice believe she could take her revenge on Queen Goddess, who has more pace and proved it when they met in the G3 Santa Ana here over a mile-quarter in March, a race in which Neige Blanche got well behind before meeting traffic problems and keeping on late.
Queen Goddess had her own way on the lead on Saturday, setting only boilerplate fractions, while Neige Blanche stayed within range on the fence, and although she had a couple of lengths to make up as they entered the stretch, that’s where she does all her running. She had plenty left in the tank as Queen Goddess slowly ran out of gas, and eased smoothly past her rival inside the final furlong for a comfortable, controlled success.
“We discussed our tactics beforehand, as we didn’t want the favourite to get away from us like she did in the Santa Ana,” said trainer Leonard Powell. “We were two or three lengths off the pace here, just the perfect trip for her, and she really wanted to get it done.”
Neige Blanche, who has only been off the board once in her last eight starts, is unbeaten in three over a mile and a half at Santa Anita, all at G3 level, and her other G3 victories came at a mile and three-eighths, one at Del Mar and one at Lyon-Parilly in her native France. Her summer objective is likely to be a stakes at Del Mar over a mile and three-eighths, a race she won last year.
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