Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum’s Vale Dori earned her fourth straight win on Saturday when capturing the $200,345 Santa Maria Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.
The bay daughter of Asiatic Boy gave jockey Mike Smith a rough ride to begin with, unseating the Hall of Famer when fractious in the gate. The duo soon reunited and, after the stall was sprung, settled just off the flank of pacesetter Midnight Toast through an opening half-mile in :23.66 and :47.35.
Vale Dori ranged up to take command nearing the turn and held firm control of the race from that point forward, scoring by 1 3/4 lengths while finishing 1 1/16 miles on the wet-fast, sealed main track in 1:43.19. She paid $2.60 as the 1-5 favorite.
Show Stealer rallied from last to take second, 3 3/4 lengths up on Autumn Flower. Lady Tapit just missed third by a neck and was followed under the wire by Sheer Pleasure and Midnight Toast.
Vale Dori earned her fourth straight win in this spot and her fifth from her past six starts. The Bob Baffert-trained five-year-old closed out her 2016 campaign with a three-length victory in the December 3 Bayakoa Handicap (G2) and opened her 2017 account with a 2 1/2-length wire job in the January 14 La Canada Stakes (G2).
The bay mare also boasts scores in the Tranquility Lake Stakes and a Group 1 from her native Argentina as well as placings in the Zenyatta Stakes (G1), U.A.E. Oaks (UAE-G3) and an Argentinean Group 2. She’s accumulated $697,943 in lifetime earnings to go along with a 12-7-3-1 record.
Bred by Abolengo, Vale Dori is out of the Halo Sunshine mare Valerina and comes from a multiple Group 1-winning female line.
SANTA MARIA QUOTES
Mike Smith, jockey Vale Dori, winner
“She got a little excited in the gate today. I’m not really sure what happened in the gate, something spooked her. She just reacted to it and almost went all the way over. It might have hurt us a little bit. She was aggravated for a good eighth of a mile before I talked her out of it. After that, she was well within herself.
“She tends to look around a little bit down the lane. I stay really busy on her.
“The horses sounded like they were right behind me but no one was! I was there, riding her harder than I probably have to. I swear it sounded like they were right behind me.
“She’s just gotten good. There’s not a Songbird or Stellar Wind in there, so that certainly helps. But she’s climbing the ladder. At some point she’s going to deserve a chance at them.
“If anyone had hooked up with her today, she would have sat off of them no doubt, just no speed today.”
Bob Baffert, trainer Vale Dori, winner
Asked if she is getting better: “She keeps beating the same group, so that’s good. She’s just steady and she’s right there. The gate thing, I think she’s very funny about her head. I think the gate guy might have touched her near her ear, and she will do that. You’ve got to be real careful with her.
“I don’t know (if she backed out). She jumped up and tried to flip or something. I don’t know what it was. Something got her, but she will do that. She was a little fresh today. I missed some time with her during the rains, so she was coming in here a little bit fresher. We missed a lot of days when it was raining so we just took it easy with her. These races have been keeping her fit so I don’t have to do too much in between.
“We’re definitely looking at the (March 18) Santa Margarita (G1). That’s the plan. Those South American horses, they love mud, they like wet tracks. It’s good to know, but she’s been a joy to train. She’s making money, we enjoy watching her run and she tries hard every time.”
Tyler Baze, jockey Show Stealer, second
“I keep thinking that someone will hook up with Vale Dori and I’ll get the dream trip, but no one hooks up with her.
“I let (Show Stealer) sneak up there a bit on Vale Dori down the backside. I didn’t want to leave her a whole lot to do, knowing how slow we were going. She ran a great race once again, though. One of these days, she can outrun the rest of them so…”