She won the G1 Gamely Stakes over 9 furlongs last year, but Eclipse Thoroughbreds, Head of Plains Partners and SF Bloodstock’s Illuminant successfully cut back in distance to capture this year’s G2 Monrovia Stakes over about 6 1/2 furlongs on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course. The 5-year-old daughter of Quality Road, ridden by Flavien Prat, stopped the clock in a sharp 1:12.13 on the firm turf for trainer Mike McCarthy, winning by about three-quarters of a length.
“I thought she was very good when she came to us,” McCarthy said. “It took us a little while to kind of get her lined out and she battled a few things but once we were able to get her on track, she took us there.”
A four-way battle for the lead consisted of Swift Lady, Watch this Cat, Enola Gray and Paquita Coqueta at the start of the Monrovia. Illuminant was off the pace early, but ranged up the rail to move into contention around the far turn after fractions of :21.29 and :43.04. Enola Gray stole away from Watch this Cat while three-wide to earn a one-length advantage in the stretch, but the hard-charging Illuminant had enough left to run her down on the flat ground. Illuminant then held off the late charge of Coniah to win by three-quarters of a length. Anita Partner got up for third, and Juno was fourth.
“That was a dream trip,” Prat said. “She broke well and she’s just not fast enough to follow that fast pace. It was great.”
Bred in Pennsylvania by Sycamore Hall Farm, Illuminant was a $ 900,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Mixed sale last year, though she hadn’t raced since her Gamely win. In three starts for her new connections, the mare has won two stakes, improving her overall record to six wins from 14 starts with earnings of over $ 530,000.
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