Although favored to claim the 2016 Eclipse Award as the nation’s leading female sprinter, Finest City ensured herself of at least one victory on Saturday with a season-opening romp in the $200,000 Santa Monica (G2) at Santa Anita.
The 2-5 favorite against four rivals, Finest City was under steady pressure from Fantastic Style through early fractions of :22.15 and :44.26. Appearing in upper stretch as if she would have to battle all the way to the wire, the five-year-old City Zip mare finally found a gear under Mike Smith and drew off to a win by 3 3/4 lengths.
Owned by Seltzer Thoroughbreds and trained by Ian Kruljac, Finest City completed seven furlongs over a wet-fast track in 1:21.44 and paid $2.80. Fantastic Style held off Sheer Pleasure by a neck for the place. Dr. Fager’s Gal and Bad Ju Ju completed the order of finish.
This was the first start for Finest City since her 8-1 score in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) over the same track and distance on November 5.
“Breaking from the one hole in this slop, you gotta get outta there,” Smith said. “She’s never had this kinda dirt in her face and I certainly didn’t want her to get any today. My only concern with being away as long as she has is that we’d probably have to use her from the rail, but I saw she’s been working really well.”
This year’s Breeders’ Cup will be held at Del Mar, but Kruljac said after the Santa Monica that Finest City is unlikely to be confined to sprints before then.
“We’ll enjoy this and see what she wants to do in a couple of weeks…There aren’t that many sprints for her here in California,” Kruljac said. “We’re just keeping her fresh. We’re not really laying her off at all. That’s the way she runs the best.”
In addition to her Breeders’ Cup win, Finest City also captured the Great Lady M (G2) at Los Alamitos and placed in the Santa Monica, Vanity Mile (G1), and John C. Mabee (G2) on turf last season. Her record now stands at 15-5-4-2, $1,045,594.
Bred in Pennsylvania by HnR Nothhaft Horseracing LLC, Finest City was reared by Be Envied, a stakes-placed Lemon Drop Kid half-sister to Grade 1 winner Burning Roma.