Sent off at 56-1, the longest price in the 13-horse field, Plenty Of Grace popped out of a pack of horses at the head of the stretch, overtook front-running Petite Ile a few strides later and won the $400,000 Yellow Ribbon by one length at Santa Anita Sunday.
Petite Ile, who might have clinched an Eclipse Award for best female on grass, finished second, a length in front of Royal Touch. It was another three-quarters of a length back to Coolawin in fourth place. Reluctant Guest, the second betting choice at 5-1, and another filly with Eclipse aspirations, finished ninth before a crowd of 33,181.
Plenty Of Grace paid $114, $41.20 and $18.80.
Baldomero, the 5-year-old Irish-bred mare trained by Bill Shoemaker, broke down on the clubhouse turn. First or second this year in all six of her American starts, Baldomero suffered a broken left foreleg and was destroyed.
Plenty Of Grace, a 3-year-old daughter of Roberto and Wings Of Grace, a Key to the Mint mare, ran 1 1/4 miles in 1:58 2/5, a second slower than the track and world record. Trained by John Veitch and ridden by Herb McCauley for the first time, she earned $240,000 for Dan Galbreath of Darby Dan Farm, which seldom sends horses to California.
Plenty Of Grace's starting spot in the Yellow Ribbon wasn't ensured until Tuesday, when Veitch, noticing that some European defections might make room on the invitation list, called Tom Robbins, the Santa Anita racing secretary. Robbins called Veitch back a few hours later, telling him that Plenty Of Grace would be able to run.
Veitch and his assistant, Charlie Rose, couldn't believe Plenty Of Grace's odds. "I thought she might go off about 12-1," Rose said. "When I saw she was 50-1, I went back and bet some more."
On Oct. 20, at 11-1, Plenty Of Grace won the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland. In September, she won a stake at the Meadowlands, and she came into the Yellow Ribbon with four victories and two seconds in eight starts. However, three of the horses in the Yellow Ribbon--Baldomero, Freya Stark and Foresta--finished ahead of Plenty Of Grace when she ran fifth at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 30.
"The California bettors are no dumber than the Kentucky bettors," Veitch said. "She went off at big odds in the Keeneland race, and she had beaten some of the horses that they bet more that day. She's never run a bad race. I'm not a bettor, and with odds like this today, I'm sorry I didn't look at the tote board and I'm sorry I wasn't a bettor."
The early fractions were quick, a 45 2/5 half-mile and 1:09 4/5 for six furlongs, with Freya Stark on the lead and Petite Ile second. Petite Ile, ridden by Corey Black, took the lead on the far turn and held it until Plenty Of Grace made her move. Freya Stark finished 12th.
"Corey was in a tough spot, so he made a decision and gave the filly her head," said Eddie Gregson, who trains Petite Ile. "Those early fractions were awfully fast."
Petite Ile, who has beaten males twice this year, suffered a leg injury during the summer and was running for the first time since she won the Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 23.
"I hope she was fit for this race," Gregson said. "At least I thought she was."
Gregson said there's a possibility Petite Ile will race against males again, in the Hollywood Turf Cup next month.
"I thought we were going to have traffic trouble and didn't want to get shuffled back," Black said of Petite Ile's early position. "She was pressed the whole way. She just got a little breather at the three-eighths pole. She doesn't have much of a kick, and this is a short distance for her. The other horse (Plenty Of Grace) got the jump on me. That's how Sweet Roberta beat us (at Golden Gate Fields)."
Petite Ile attempted to come on again after Plenty Of Grace passed her. "She didn't give up," Black said. "She's a top-class filly."
Plenty Of Grace carried 119 pounds, four less than Petite Ile, who is a year older.
Veitch gave the mount to McCauley, an Eastern jockey, because Jerry Bailey, who usually rides Plenty Of Grace, was committed to a stake race at Aqueduct. Bailey finished third aboard Killer Diller in the Discovery Handicap.
McCauley, 33, had never ridden at Santa Anita. A native of the Durham, N.C., area, McCauley visited Santa Anita when he was 13, out here while in the Southland with his father to watch North Carolina play in the NCAA basketball tournament.
Chris McCarron, who rode Royal Touch, had a rough trip. "I didn't have any luck," McCarron said. "I couldn't get through when I wanted to. From my vantage point, I was on the best horse."
Horse Racing Notes
The Santa Anita stewards will be attempting to contact Pat Valenzuela today, to order him to report to the track for an interview and a drug test. If Valenzuela doesn't respond promptly, he could be suspended by the stewards. On Saturday, Valenzuela, who has a history of drug problems, called in sick and was asked by the stewards to be tested for drugs by a private physician. . . . The Oak Tree season ends today with the Burke Handicap. The high weights at 118 pounds apiece are Rial and Live the Dream. . . . Hollywood Park's season opens Wednesday with Annual Reunion and Mahaska the high weights at 117 pounds apiece in the $60,000 Allez France Handicap for 3-year-old fillies. Jose Santos will ride Daughter of Wolf in the stake, and the New York star has been named on two other horses as he begins his invasion of California.
Jockey Eddie Delahoussaye was able to clear other horses when Baldomero broke down in the Yellow Ribbon. "I just got her relaxed, she hit and it (the leg) just snapped," Delahoussaye said. "She was as sound as could be. It was just one of those freak things." . . . Trainer Gary Jones was back at Santa Anita Sunday after saddling Quiet American for his victory Saturday in the New York Racing Assn. Mile at Aqueduct. Jones was very critical of the selection committee which prevented Quiet American from running in the Breeders' Cup Classic. "I did a lot of talking, but then the horse vindicated what I was saying on Saturday," Jones said. "And they bet him Saturday--big--just the way they would have bet him if we had got in the Breeders' Cup." . . . Kent Desormeaux rode three winners Sunday, moving him into first place in the riding standings with 23. Gary Stevens has 22 victories wins and Alex Solis and Eddie Delahoussaye have 21 apiece. . . . Richard Mandella saddled his 12th winner Sunday and is assured of the Oak Tree training title.
* SHOOTING: A man is shot and killed by an acquaintance in the Santa Anita crowd. Story, B1.