Breeders’ Cup Saturday undercard recap
Breeders’ Cup Saturday at Santa Anita kicked off with a trio of undercard stakes races serving as appetizers before the main course.
Senator Ken Maddy Stakes
First up was the $100,000 Senator Ken Maddy (G3) for fillies and mares dashing 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf course. Without any run-up distance, otherwise ordinary fractions :22.71 and :45.22 set by Kentan Road and Girls Know Best proved destructive. As the pacesetters faded in the final furlong, early trailers Just Grazed Me, Apache Princess, and Oppodamia’s Girl swept past the field to finish 1-2-3, with Just Grazed Me edging her rivals by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:02.94.
“We broke nice and she settled into a good spot,” said winning jockey Geovanni Franco. “There were some really fast fillies in there today. She just does what she does and took off on the turn. Once she pinned her ears back, there was no way they were going to catch her.”
Owned by Nick Alexander, the consistent Just Grazed Me was securing her third stakes victory and her first graded win while bringing her overall record to 10-6-3-1.
“She’s kind of actually changed her style more and more herself. She’s coming from further behind with a bigger kick,” said trainer Phil D’Amato. “She’s just finding her groove right now. It’s really nice to see a filly develop like this and hopefully have a bright future ahead of her.”
In the $100,000 Damascus, Flagstaff parlayed a drop in class into a hard-fought victory. Coming off of a third-place finish in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1), Flagstaff tracked fast fractions of :22.22 and :44.85 set by Comical Ghost before taking command in the stretch. Once there, the son of Speightstown responded to urging from jockey Victor Espinoza and held off a determined rally from Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Roadster to prevail by a nose.
A half-brother to 2018 champion two-year-old male Game Winner, Flagstaff stopped the timer for seven furlongs in 1:22.36 while winning his first stakes race. A lightly-raced five-year-old owned by Lane’s End Racing and Hronis Racing, Flagstaff is trained by John Sadler.
The undercard stakes action wrapped up with the $200,000 Twilight Derby (G2), in which the speedy Mo Forza sprung a 13-1 upset. Although he fought jockey Joel Rosario during the early stages of the race, Mo Forza gradually consented to track pacesetter Kingly through fractions of :23.54, :47.32, and 1:11.16 before edging clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths in the snappy time of 1:46.18 for 1 1/8 miles.
“He was a little rank leaving the gate, but I had him in hand. He was pulling, but not that bad,” said Rosario. “He relaxed really well on the first turn and settled into racing.”
A son of Uncle Mo, Mo Forza is conditioned by Peter Miller for owners Bardy Farm and OG Boss. After losing the first five starts of his career, the improving Mo Forza broke his maiden at Santa Anita on September 29 and has now won two straight.