After Newgate led home an intramural renewal of the Robert B. Lewis (G3), Bob Baffert made it a Saturday graded double with 1-2 favorite Fun to Dream in the Santa Monica (G2). The other two stakes on the Santa Anita card went to Irish imports with potent late kicks on turf – Earls Rock got up in a Thunder Road (G3) thriller, and Quattroelle scored in the Megahertz (G3).
Santa Monica (G2)
Fun to Dream racked up her fourth straight win in the $200,500 Santa Monica. Billed as a rematch with Awake at Midnyte, who was a closing second to Fun to Dream in the Dec. 26 La Brea (G1), the Santa Monica confirmed that result, and then some. Fun to Dream significantly increased her winning margin over Awake at Midnyte, at the same seven-furlong trip, and enhanced her resume to 7-6-0-0, $546,590.
This time, Fun to Dream played the hunter under confident handling by Juan Hernandez. Last in the compact field early, the daughter of Arrogate was just galloping as Anacapa and Samurai Charm duked it out in splits of :22.81 and :45.74. Awake at Midnyte tackled Samurai Charm turning for home, but by that point, Fun to Dream was scything through the field for fun. The favorite maneuvered into the clear and blew past her familiar foe, opening up by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:22.75.
Awake at Midnyte was best of the rest by nearly the same margin. Samurai Charm tired to third, followed by Lady T, Angel Nadeshiko, and Anacapa.
“This filly gave me a lot of confidence,” Hernandez said of Fun to Dream. “She’s really professional; she’s getting really good and getting better every race. She broke pretty good, but I couldn’t keep (up) with the pace in front of me, so she relaxed well behind horses. Last time she passed horses without me asking her so today I felt like I had a lot of horse, and I was just waiting for some room to come through.
“This filly is getting really good, and I felt like she was on the bridle. Around the three-eighths I felt like I had a lot of horse. Last time turning for home she exploded and passed everybody, and today she did the exact same thing. Turning for home I asked her to swing out and she kicked really well.”
Baffert bred Fun to Dream in partnership with Connie Pageler, who campaigns the gray filly with Baffert’s wife, Jill. Out of the Maria’s Mon mare Lutess, the four-year-old is a half-sister to multiple California-bred stakes victor Heck Yeah.
Fun to Dream likewise earned her first stakes tallies in the Cal-bred ranks, dominating the July 28 Fleet Treat S. at Del Mar and scraping home in the Betty Grable S. back at the same venue Nov. 13. Although her La Brea and Santa Monica reinforced her prowess at seven furlongs, she had run away with an open-company allowance going 1 1/16 miles here on Oct. 1. Her pedigree obviously points more in the direction of routes, and Baffert confirmed postrace that the homebred would stretch back out.
Thunder Road (G3)
Baffert almost had a triple, but his 15-1 comebacker Du Jour missed by a nose to Earls Rock in a frenetic finish to the $103,000 Thunder Road. Trained by Phil D’Amato, the 3.90-1 shot knifed between horses late for an inspired Flavien Prat. That split-second decision was the difference between victory and defeat, as Earls Rock capitalized on an inner passage while Du Jour was flying out wide.
The 9-5 favorite, Air Force Red, was prominent throughout before getting swamped in the final strides in third. Chasing surprising front runner Dark Shift through fractions of :22.79, :46.71, and 1:10.45, Air Force Red was still trying to wear him down in midstretch. Dark Shift was grudgingly succumbing to the favorite at last when the closers descended.
Earls Rock, who had been settled about midpack on the rail, gained and glimpsed precious daylight. Prat could have switched out around Dark Shift and Air Force Red, but he intuited the seam emerging between the leaders. Earls Rock forged through, and his nose reached the wire just in front.
Du Jour, making his first start as a gelding off a 13-month layoff, was a bit further back early. But he kicked into overdrive in deep stretch and thrust his neck past Air Force Red on the line. Fellow closer Irideo also hit top gear late to get up for fourth, another half-length back.
Dark Shift, perhaps too fresh in his first start since October and second start stateside, hung tough for fifth. Next came Cabo Spirit, Bob and Jackie, Kiss Today Goodbye, Anaconda, Hit the Road, and There Goes Harvard. Beaudacious was scratched.
Anthony Fanticola’s Earls Rock negotiated the firm-turf mile in 1:34.05 to advance his record to 7-4-1-1, $207,799. The Irish-bred was runner-up to future Group 1 star A Case of You on debut at Down Royal, his lone start in Europe. He promptly won his American premiere at this course and distance, then added the Baffle S. in early 2021. Earls Rock was sidelined following a fifth in that spring’s Transylvania (G3), and he didn’t resurface until the fall of 2022. A tune-up third in a Nov. 5 allowance set him up for a Del Mar allowance score Dec. 4, and the five-year-old gelding is clearly ready to make up for lost time.
Bred by Newtown Anner Stud, Earls Rock is a son of Fascinating Rock and the Shamardal mare Ajaadat.
The complexion of the $101,000 Megahertz changed when speedy Hamwood Flier was withdrawn. Bay Storm inherited the front-running role and nearly lasted, but the 10.80-1 Quattroelle quickened in time to nab her by a half-length. Hector Berrios guided the Jeff Mullins mare through the grassy mile in 1:35.04.
Bay Storm, who carved out splits of :23.37, :48.09, and 1:12.35, fended off the persistent attention of One Silk Stocking and placed a hard-trying second. Closing Remarks finished a close third, a neck up on One Silk Stocking. Ann of the Dance, he 2.40-1 favorite, was outpaced in fifth, and Oakhurst and Nadette concluded the order of finish.
Owned by Red Baron’s Barn and Rancho Temescal, Quattroelle was winning her first stakes since the 2020 Blue Norther S. The daughter of Mehmas also placed in the Jimmy Durante (G3) during that juvenile season, as well as in the 2021 China Doll S. and in her two most recent starts, the Nov. 24 Red Carpet (G3) and Dec. 31 Robert J. Frankel (G3). Her scorecard stands at 14-4-3-4, $292,782.
Quattroelle was bred by Rossenarra Bloodstock in the Emerald Isle. She was produced by the Stormy River mare Heavenly River, from the immediate family of last year’s Queen Mary (G2) star and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) runner-up Dramatised.