Change proved profitable for Dianes Halo in the $213,800 La Canada Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.
Nearly three weeks after she finished a distant last in the El Encino Stakes, the 4-year-old Sunny's Halo filly rallied in the final quarter of a mile to beat 4-5 favorite Twice The Vice by a head in 1:49 1/5 for the 1 1/8 miles.
Three things were different about Dianes Halo, the 13-1 fourth choice from the last time she had raced. Trainer David Cross had corrected a "minor problem," by putting blinkers on after she had been without them for her previous five starts and she was ridden by leading jockey Corey Nakatani for the first time.
Those alterations combined with a pace that played to her come-from-behind style was enough to give the California-bred the third and biggest victory of her career.
Before Saturday, Dianes Halo, bred and owned by Diane and Gary Garber, had only a maiden victory and a minor stakes victory at Fairplex Park to her credit. Mostly, she had made a nice living running second and third while chasing the likes of Sardula, Lakeway and Two Altazano.
Everything went her way in the La Canada, which has been won by a favorite (Exchange in 1992) only once in the last five years.
"She had a little bit of a problem, but everything seems to be all right now," said Cross, who trains Dianes Halo for owner-breeder Gary and Diane Garber.
"Before, she's never had any pace to run at, either. She's been unlucky in a lot of races and she finally got the job done today. We've never been down on her. But maybe we've been a little higher on her than we should have been too."
Dianes Halo paid $28.20, and the $123,800 winner's share pushed her earnings to $331,210.
For the third consecutive time, Twice The Vice was the beaten favorite, and she is still winless since being purchased by Pam and Marty Wygod for a reported $1.1 million late last year.
Never far off the pace being set by 3-1 third choice Klassy Kim, Twice The Vice wasn't able to get by that filly until just before the wire, beating her by a neck. Klassy Kim had 14 lengths on Cabo Queen, then came Incurable Romantic and Top Rung, the 3-1 second choice who ran poorly in her first start after a bout with colic .
"We had a great trip," said trainer Ron Ellis about the favorite. "She just got beat today. Obviously, it's disappointing, but she got a perfect trip."
Looking for his seventh consecutive victory in his final race before meeting Holy Bull in next month's Santa Anita Handicap, Wekiva Springs is the 8-5 favorite against four opponents in the $500,000 Strub Stakes today at Santa Anita.
The field includes the first four finishers in last month's San Fernando Stakes--Wekiva Springs, Dramatic Gold, Dare And Go and Strodes Creek--and the new face is College Town, who will be the longest shot in the field.
This will be Wekiva Springs' first try at 1 1/4 miles, but trainer Bob Hess, Jr. is confident and the Runaway Groom colt has acted as if he won't mind the extra distance.
Close in all four of his American starts but unable to win so far, Dare And Go will have a new jockey today in Alex Solis and he will be battling for the lead with Dramatic Gold. Corey Nakatani will ride Dramatic Gold, who may be stretched at 10 furlongs.
Strodes Creek, the most over-hyped horse of his class, passed tired horses in the San Fernando and he is still seeking his first graded stakes win. Much has been made about how the distance will help him-- since he ran second in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Belmont--but the fact is two of his three victories have come in sprints.
In the day's other feature, unbeaten Key Phrase is the 8-5 favorite in the $150,000 Santa Maria Handicap against Paseana and Corrazona.
A week before Afternoon Deelites makes his 1995 debut in the San Vicente Breeders' Cup Stakes, another promising 3-year-old was impressive in victory Saturday.
Making the second start of his life, French Deputy overcame a horrible start to beat his outclassed rivals by nearly three lengths in 1:15 for the 6 1/2 furlongs.
Owned by Irving and Marge Cowan and trained by Neil Drysdale, the 3-year-old colt is a son of Deputy Minister out of the stakes-winning mare Mitterand.
Ridden by Eddie Delahoussaye, the 2-5 favorite spotted his six opponents about a four-length head start, cruised up to get close to the lead down the backstretch, then took charge in the stretch. He had won his debut by five lengths in 1:08 4/5 on Nov. 20 at Hollywood Park.
"One thing he proved in this race is that he can come from off the pace after getting left," said Delahoussaye. "He almost flipped in the gate. We got him back on his feet, but he wasn't standing real well. So, he just broke slowly when they sprung the gate.
"He won rather handily. I know that wasn't an outstanding field, but you had to be impressed by the manner in which he did it."
Horse Racing Notes
Afternoon Deelites worked seven furlongs in 1:27 1/5 Saturday morning under Kent Desormeaux and galloped out a mile in 1:41 1/5. . . . Marco Castaneda, who was injured seriously in a spill at Bay Meadows on Dec. 26, was released from a San Mateo hospital Friday. Castaneda, 44, will continue to undergo therapy and he is still hopeful about resuming his career.