Underrated mare Santa Monica showed she was ready to tackle her biggest assignment next month after producing a comprehensive performance to win at New Plymouth on Saturday.
The five-year-old had registered a pair of runner-up finishes at her most recent starts, with one of those coming behind speed machine Prom Queen at Ruakaka. Despite that form recommendation the Per Incanto mare was largely overlooked as a winning chance in the NZB Insurance Pearl Series Race (1200m).
A tardy start didn’t enhance her prospects but aided by a heady ride by apprentice Darren Danis, who hugged the rails throughout, Santa Monica produced an irresistible finish to burst clear in the closing stages and claim her fourth career victory from just her 22nd start.
Trainer Stephen Ralph admitted he got a bit of a surprise when his charge burst up the fence in the straight as he had been anticipating her finishing on out wide.
“I lost her on the corner and was looking out wide for her,” Ralph said.
“Then I spotted her on the fence and thought she has got this.
“The form behind Prom Queen is very good so we’re happy to win this one.”
Ralph has the Gr.3 Sweynesse Stakes (1215m) at Rotorua on October 20 as the mare’s next target.
“Hopefully we can get into that Rotorua stakes race now and get some black print,” he said.
Danis was sporting a wide grin when questioned about his daring tactics to spear his mount through a needle-eye gap in the run home.
“We got squeezed at the start but I didn’t want to panic as I knew she has a good turn of foot,” he said.
“I saw the gap open up on the inside so why not take the easy way home.
“All I had to do was push the button and she just went and showed a real good turn of foot.”
Santa Monica is the grand-daughter of top racemare Balmacara who numbered the 1993 Gr.2 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) amongst her eight career wins, before it was upgraded to the Group One status it now enjoys. – NZ Racing Desk