Ramona Handicap at Del Mar : Annoconnor Fooling Odds Again
When Annoconnor won the Vanity Invitational Handicap 7 weeks ago at Hollywood Park, there were few believers because at 42-1 she was the longest price on the board.
Similarly, the cognoscenti in a Del Mar crowd of 20,448 shied away from the 4-year-old filly Sunday in the $224,000 Ramona Handicap, even though there were at least two indicators that she’d run well. There’s something about the sea air here that agrees with Annoconnor, and when trainer John Gosden leaves town, that’s when she does her best.
With Gosden in Kentucky for a horse auction, his assistants, John O’Donoghue and Rick Mettee, have been in charge, just as they were for the Vanity. Gosden will again have to get his thrills from a videocassette, for Annoconnor, sent off at 11-1 in a field of 10, got a ground-saving, horse-splitting, late-running ride from Corey Black to take the Ramona by three-fourths of a length from Chapel of Dreams, with 2-1 favorite Short Sleeves third and Pen Bal Lady fourth.
Annoconnor, who is owned by Morton Fink and Roy Gottlieb of Chicago, has registered three of her seven career victories at Del Mar, and in another start here, in the Chula Vista Handicap on Aug. 13, she was a close second to Clabber Girl.
Paying $24, $8.80 and $5.20, Annoconnor earned $134,000 to send her career total to almost $400,000. Chapel of Dreams, winner of the Palomar Handicap here in her last start, paid $5.40 and $3.40 and Short Sleeves, carrying 121 pounds, 5 more than Annoconnor, returned $3.20. Chapel of Dreams finished 1 3/4 lengths in front of Short Sleeves, who had 2 3/4 lengths on Pen Bal Lady.
All but 3 of Annoconnor’s 15 pre-Ramona starts were on dirt, yet Sunday she beat a group of turf veterans and covered the 1 1/8-mile grass route in a respectable 1:48 2/5. Annoconnor, a daughter of Nureyev and My Nord, is named after a late business associate of Gottlieb’s.
“We feel that she’s as good on grass as she is on dirt,” Mettee said before the Ramona. “She moves well on it, and she has the right style for this course.”
Annoconnor’s other three Del Mar races were on dirt. She broke her maiden here last summer and added a victory in an allowance race. Her only turf victory before Sunday at Santa Anita in an allowance race in January.
Annoconnor has run close to the lead and even set the pace in several of her races, but in the Ramona she was seventh after a half-mile, with Rakau Polly, another longshot, off to a 4-length lead and Annoconnor 9 lengths behind. Pen Bal Lady was even farther behind, in last place and 12 lengths back.
Black, who has been aboard all four of Annoconnor’s victories this year, kept the filly on the fence until the turn for home, when he came from between horses to reach contention. In the straightaway, Black brought Annoconnor out to the middle of the track. Rakau Polly, who would finish eighth, was spent and Chapel of Dreams, after being third early, had taken the lead.
From mid-stretch to the wire, Annoconnor responded willingly to six right-handed whacks from Black’s whip and she passed Chapel of Dreams several strides before the wire.
Gosden had left instructions for his jockey before he went to Kentucky.
“He told me to take a long hold (with the reins) and not to fight her,” Black said. “I thought I might even be on the lead. I got through on the fence heading around the far turn. She runs good on both dirt and turf, obviously. I think she’s equal on both, but the dirt horses are easier.”
The jockeys of the runners-up--Gary Stevens on Chapel of Dreams and Chris McCarron on Short Sleeves--couldn’t fault their horses.
“My filly ran a winning race,” Stevens said. “She settled nice. Fernando (Toro, on Rakau Polly) had his hands full and I didn’t want to fight her. My horse ran good, but the winner ran great.”
Short Sleeves won last year at Bay Meadows with 122 pounds, but has had trouble winning since then with high weights. The 6-year-old mare, the oldest horse in the race, is undersized at about 850 pounds and was an upset winner in the Ramona a year ago.
“We had a perfect trip,” McCarron said. “We just didn’t quite get there. I don’t think she can spot those mares that kind of weight.”
Horse Racing Notes
Owner Fred Hooper plans to send Precisionist back to stud early next year. “We’ll try breeding him to some cold (non-thoroughbred) mares and see what happens,” Hooper said of Saturday’s Del Mar Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap winner, who’s had trouble impregnating mares the last two breeding seasons.