Bettors were right to favor the Irish raider Santa Barbara on the day in the 2021 Beverly D Stakes at Arlington International Racecourse on August 14. Owned by Michael Tabor, Mrs John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Westerberg, she won with authority by three lengths for her trainer Aidan O’Brien under Ryan Moore. The one time favorite Mean Mary was second under Luis Saez for Graham Motion.
Santa Barbara was sent off as the even-money betting market leader with Mean Mary close behind her at 11/10 in this grade one run over a mile and one and a half furlongs on turf. The third favorite, Chad Brown’s Lemista (58/10), took the placing expected of her, a neck behind Mean Mary. Ignacio Correas IV saddled Joy Epifora (22/1) who took fourth, two lengths further back. Naval Laughter (15/1) was tailed off and finished fifth and last, beaten over 20 lengths under Sophie Doyle.
Both the Beverly D betting market leaders came into the race on the back of a win. Santa Barbara, a three-year-old daughter of Camelot bred by the trainer’s Whisperview Trading out of a Danehill mare, Santa’s Dream, scored in the Belmont Oaks Invitational on July 10. She survived a less than ideal trip that showcased the level of her superiority over her seven rivals. After racing mid-pack under Moore she was trapped at a crucial stage with no space to run in until a gap appeared in sight of the wire in the grade one contest run over a mile and a quarter on turf. She had the tactical speed to take advantage of it and succeeded when she had every excuse to fail. It was a reassuring display of her talent.
Reassurance was particularly welcome as Santa Barbara had proved disappointing closer to home recently. She won her only start as a juvenile and was sent off as the 5/2 co-favorite in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket run over a mile in England on May 2. It was her second visit to the racetrack and her first experience of travel across the Irish Sea. She finished fourth, beaten a length and a quarter by her less popular stablemate, Mother Earth, a 10/1 shot partnered by Frankie Dettori.
Santa Barbara ran green and hung to the left in the closing stages. Mother Earth was much more streetwise, it was her ninth start and she had significant international travel on her resume. She finished second to Aunt Pearl in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and had raced in England twice. She was a creditable third in the group one 2021 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
Santa Barbara’s work at home must have been impressive as she was the 5/2 favorite in the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom in England next time out in June. The distance of a mile and a half proved too much for her and she was beaten 22 lengths into fifth. Her less fancied barnmate Snowfall, a daughter of the Japanese star sire Deep Impact, won under Dettori. They were the third favorites at 11/2. She has scored impressively at much shorter odds twice at the top level since, in the Irish Oaks in June and the Yorkshire Oaks in England on August 19.
The five-year-old Mean Mary, a daughter of Scat Daddy owned and bred by Alex Campbell Jr, had won her two previous starts. She was last seen winning the grade two New York Stakes on June 4 at Belmont Park. She started as the favorite and beat the shipper from Ireland, Joseph O’Brien’s Thundering Nights, by a nose. The soft ground on the day did not suit her but she prevailed. A photo was not needed to decide the result of her previous victory in the grade three Gallorette Stakes at Pimlico on May 15, she won by half a length.
What happened in the race?
There was drama before the race started as Mean Mary managed to break out of the gates. Saez remained in position during her premature exit and she was easily reloaded. All five females jumped well and Mean Mary soon took the lead, closely followed by Naval Laughter at her flank. Moore positioned Santa Barbara behind them on the rail and had Lemista and Joy Epifora trailing him in that order as they passed the stands. Saez set sensible fractions at the front, completing the quarter mile in 24.57 seconds and the half in 49.34.
The positions were the same three furlongs from home when Moore started asking Santa Barbara to quicken. She responded readily as Naval Laughter dropped back under an increasingly active Doyle. Flavien Prat pushed Lemista forward to pursue the leading pair, racing three wide on the final turn.
Santa Barbara passed Mean Mary soon after they passed the quarter pole and gradually extended her lead. Moore pushed her out with hands and heels, never raising his whip, unlike Saez who needed it to hold off the late challenge of Lemista. Santa Barbara barely broke a sweat and won in a time of 1.54.55 giving O’Brien his first victory in the race.
It was Moore’s third. He rode Dank successfully in 2013 who followed up in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf under him for Sir Michael Stoute. Euro Charline carried him to victory the following year for another UK-based trainer, Marco Botti. After Santa Barbara’s win Moore said it was an honor to be able to race at such a beautiful track. It has proved a profitable one for him so he has reason to appreciate it.
Santa Barbara’s win was a welcome boost for O’Brien as his horses have not been performing as well as usual closer to home. Snowfall provided him with his first win in England for over a month and he had sent plenty of horses over the Irish Sea in the meantime.
Santa Barbara is entered in a number of top level races in Europe, including the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in France in October. Her connections always have Breeders’ Cup races on the radar so US bettors may be considering her chances in November.