Slam Dunk Racing’s Madam Dancealot spotted the pacesetter as many as 14 lengths through a leisurely pace in Sunday’s $201,035 Santa Ana (G2), but jockey Corey Nakatani had confidence in her turn of foot, and the 6-5 favorite proved his judgment spot-on.
With Nakatani cleverly saving ground as long as possible and getting the split in the stretch, Madam Dancealot exploded to run down early leaders Midnight Crossing and Sassy Little Lila in time. In the process she topped the exacta for trainer Richard Baltas.
There was drama of a different sort at the beginning of the Santa Ana. When the gate opened, Laseen took a few half-hearted strides before calling it a day, despite the urgings of new rider Kent Desormeaux. The 7-1 chance refused to go, Desormeaux had to pull her up, and she walked off the course. The stewards’ inquiry found that she herself was responsible for the miscue.
The remaining seven pressed on, led by 2-1 second choice Sassy Little Lila through slow fractions of :24.78, :49.00, and 1:12.78 on the good course. Midnight Crossing was the only one to give pursuit, well clear of Lucy De (yet another Baltas) at the head of the main body of the field. Madam Dancealot was biding her time, not only last, but a couple of lengths behind the penultimate runner.
As Midnight Crossing was wearing down Sassy Little Lila in midstretch, the decisive moves were being made farther back by Nakatani and Madam Dancealot. Once she had maneuvered into the clear and engaged turbo, the result wasn’t in doubt. Madam Dancealot won going away by a half-length while finishing 1 1/8 grassy miles in 1:49.51.
The winner was the only closer to improve her position. Midnight Crossing bested Sassy Little Lila by a half-length for second, and there was a 2 1/2-length gap back to the aforementioned Lucy De in fourth. How Unusual, Majestic Angel, and Evo Campo didn’t land a blow.
Madam Dancealot was coming off a fifth in the February 17 Buena Vista (G2) to Fault, who had been cross-entered to the Santa Ana and to Saturday’s Santa Margarita (G1) on the main track. Trainer Phil D’Amato aimed for the bigger prize, made more open due to the absence of Unique Bella, and the gamble paid off as Fault won in a romp. She was resting on her laurels come Sunday instead of seeking another Grade 2 on turf.
Initially based in England with trainer Joseph Tuite, Madam Dancealot placed second to classy juvenile colt Mehmas on debut at Chester. The Sir Prancealot filly bookended her Newbury maiden score with unplaced efforts in the 2016 Queen Mary (G2) (behind Lady Aurelia) and Princess Margaret (G3), but ended her British career on a high note when capturing the Dick Poole Fillies’ S. (G3) at Salisbury.
Madam Dancealot has toured the sales ring three times, finally commanding €260,000 at the Goffs Champions Sale following her Salisbury heroics. She didn’t make an auspicious debut for her new Southern California connections, winding up 13th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). At three last season, however, Madam Dancealot repaid the investment by scoring in the San Clemente (G2) and placing in the Del Mar Oaks (G1), American Oaks (G1), and Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1). Her resume now reads 17-5-4-2, $490,064.
Bred by Tally-Ho Stud in Ireland, Madam Dancealot is out of the winning Danehill mare Sisal, from the productive family of Group 2 hero and successful hurdler Alderbrook.
Quotes from Santa Anita
Winning owner Slam Dunk Racing’s Nick Casato: “Madam Dancealot and Beau Recall (another imported closer by the same sire) make it tough to watch these kinds of races.
“It’s awesome to win a race like this. She’s already a Grade 2 winner but you know, residual value with these fillies is what you need.
On being an owner compared to being a jockey agent: “They’re both great, but being an owner you’ve got a lot more at stake than being a jockey agent. You’ve got a lot of money, sweat and tears into it. I have a lot of great partners and it’s great being here.”
Jockey Corey Nakatani on Madam Dancealot: “She’s been doing so well. I thought with as much rain as we’ve had and the turf being softer it worked to her advantage today.
“Being that far off the pace today was by instruction from my trainer. He told me what to do and I did it, to a ‘T’ (smiling.)
“In all seriousness, she’s a tremendous filly and she’s been doing great. I told Nick as we were going into the paddock that she couldn’t be doing any better. In the mornings, all the signs are perfect. A couple of other times going into a race she’s been wound up a little tighter than we’ve wanted but we’ve got her switched off. We take her to the training track, worked out there a few times and it’s really paid off. It’s a tribute to Richard and his entire team. She’s taken some work but they got the job done.
“There was no concern whatsoever about getting there in time. I know this filly. I always get on her and knowing what she’s capable of doing…she’s capable of laying closer and I knew they would be going slow. I thought it would play in my favor today but I don’t want to tell you my strategy. It’s for racing down the road…
“You stay out of her way, let her do the running and when you call on her, she’ll do what she did today; she’ll explode. I geared her down the last part of it to keep her happy and willing to do the things she needs to do.
“My son (Matt) has done a pretty good job too (as his agent).”
Trainer Richard Baltas on his exacta: “Both fillies ran great for different owners. I’m very grateful both fillies fired…It looked like Brice (Blanc, aboard Midnight Crossing) had plenty of horse and he was stalking. I saw Corey (Nakatani, on Madam Dancealot) coming up the rail and I said ‘Don’t get her stopped!’ I never would have thought she could’ve gone this far when we first got her, but she’s really changed. She still hasn’t won a Grade I, but she’s been knocking on the door.”