October 2, 2023

Fair Maiden blows past La Brea rivals

Fair Maiden
Fair Maiden wins the La Brea Stakes © Benoit Photo

Fair Maiden put it all together in Saturday’s $300,000 La Brea (G1) at Santa Anita, rolling to win going away by 2 1/4 lengths. A juvenile turf stakes scorer, the chestnut was overlooked at 20-1 odds in the 7-furlong test for 3-year-old fillies, and she registered her first graded triumph in the third start of her sophomore season.

Ricardo Gonzalez, who earned his first Grade 1 triumph, was up for Eoin Harty on the Godolphin homebred daughter of Street Boss, and Fair Maiden stopped the teletimer in 1:22.69.

The pace was hot, as Biddy Duke sped forward to establish opening splits in :21.88 and :44.59 on a one-length advantage. Fair Maiden was only a few lengths behind while towards the back of the tightly-bunched field, and she began to edge forward while wide on the far turn.

Golden Principal surged to a short lead in upper stretch, with Merneith in close attendance along the inside, but the front-runners were treading water by midstretch. Fair Maiden had all the momentum on the far outside, and she closed boldly to seize control and drive clear.

“Eoin said she was doing really really well, to just put her in the race,” Gonzalez said. “There were quite a few speeds. ‘Just put her in the race get her clear and get her to the outside.’ We hit the stretch and as soon as we hit the stretch, she went on the outside and was just full of run.”

“I’ve been watching Ricky ride since he came down here (to Southern California), and I think he’s the next superstar,” Harty said. “He’s brave and he puts his horse in a spot to win. I grab him in every time I can because I think he’s a world-class rider.”

Golden Principal easily held second at 12-1, 1 1/2 lengths better than 7-2 Merneith. Finite, the 2-1 favorite, rallied belatedly for fourth. Secret Keeper, Provocation, Himiko, Biddy Duke, Motivated Seller, and Princess Mo came next under the wire.

Winner of the Catch a Glimpse S. and a neck third in the Natalma S. (G1) on Woodbine’s turf last year, Fair Maiden headed to the sidelines for 10 1/2 months after a troubled unplaced effort in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies (G1) at Santa Anita.

After returning with 2 1/4-length allowance tally at Churchill Downs in mid-September, Fair Maiden posted a rallying fourth in the Nov. 7 Fort Springs S. at Keeneland in advance of the La Brea.

“She was super professional that day (at Churchill Downs) and gave me a lot of confidence in bringing her out here for this,” Harty said.

The Kentucky-bred upped her bankroll to $321,278 from an 8-4-1-1 record.

Fair Maiden is the first stakes winner from the Smart Strike mare Shieldmaiden, and this is the immediate female family of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Secret Status.