October 26, 2021

Santa Barbara storms clear in Beverly D.

Santa Barbara, with Ryan Moore up, wins the Beverly D. Stakes (Photography by Jamie Newell/TwinSpires)

In a performance as dominant as it was historic, Irish shipper Santa Barbara blew away Mean Mary and drew off in Saturday’s $392,000 Beverly D. (G1) at Arlington. Just the second sophomore filly to win the 1 3/16-mile prize, the even-money favorite was also filling a rare gap on trainer Aidan O’Brien’s resume.

Santa Barbara worked out an ideal trip, without an anxious moment as in her last-gasp Belmont Oaks (G1) victory. Regular rider Ryan Moore had her poised in a stalking third as pacesetter Mean Mary, the 11-10 second choice, was hounded through the early going.

Mean Mary was so eager to go that she popped the gate open prematurely, in an inauspicious omen. Scampering to her customary front-running role, she was prompted by Naval Laughter through fractions of :24.57, :49.34, and 1:13.33 on the good course.

The pace itself wasn’t overly taxing, but Mean Mary didn’t find herself in splendid isolation as usual. That psychological factor of feeling a rival’s constant presence might have taken a toll. Although Mean Mary saw off Naval Laughter’s final challenge, she could not cope with a surging Santa Barbara.

Seamlessly picking up the baton from Naval Laughter leaving the far turn, Santa Barbara ranged alongside Mean Mary and soon left her standing. The granddaughter of Starine, heroine of the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Arlington, lengthened her fluent stride en route to a three-length victory in 1:54.55.

Mean Mary showed admirable tenacity, after being overwhelmed by the winner, to hold second by a neck. Lemista, who was trying to give Chad Brown a sixth straight Beverly D. (and seventh overall), stayed on for third. Joy Epifora reported home another two lengths back in fourth, and Naval Laughter retreated to last of the quintet.

Bramble Queen wisely scratched in favor of the Mike Spellman Memorial, an Illinois-bred stakes that she won as the 2-5 favorite earlier on the card. Oh So Terrible was likewise withdrawn.

Santa Barbara, who was receiving six pounds as a three-year-old, improved her record to 6-3-1-0, $731,642. A smashing winner of her only start at two, the Coolmore and Westerberg runner was set some ambitious tasks in the English classics this spring. Her returning fourth in the 1000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket suggested that the Camelot filly would thrive on the stretch-out in the Oaks (G1). But at a rain-softened Epsom, Santa Barbara wound up a distant fifth behind record-setting stablemate Snowfall.

The June 27 Pretty Polly (G1) at the Curragh was a much more amenable spot, as a 1 1/4-mile affair on good-to-firm, and Santa Barbara was runner-up by a neck to the high-class four-year-old Thundering Nights. Next seen stateside in the July 10 Belmont Oaks, Santa Barbara overcame a traffic nightmare to impose her class. The Beverly D. reiterated her upward trajectory.

Santa Barbara would be a fascinating contender for the Breeders’ Cup, especially as a half-sister to 2019 Filly & Mare Turf star Iridessa and last year’s Mile (G1) stunner Order of Australia. No broodmare has produced three Breeders’ Cup winners, so if Santa Barbara can join them on the honor roll, it would mark a record achievement for their dam, the Danehill mare Senta’s Dream. Iridessa, Order of Australia, and Santa Barbara were all bred in Ireland by Aidan and Annemarie O’Brien’s Whisperview Trading, adding another layer to the family success story.