ARCADIA, Calif. — Illuminant closed from just off the pace to win the $300,000 Gamely Stakes for fillies and mares by one length Monday at Santa Anita.
Ridden by Flavien Prat, Illuminant ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:48.34 and paid $12.40, $5 and $3.40 at 5-1 odds in just her second start in a Grade 1 race.
“It’s pretty exciting to win a race like this,” trainer Michael McCarthy said. “I thought she would run well. She’s a very honest filly, tries hard and I thought the mile and an eighth would be right up her alley.”
France-bred Wekeela returned $2.60 and $2.40 as the 4-5 wagering favorite in her second U.S. race after shipping in from New York for trainer Chad Brown.
“The pace was slow, but we were right behind the winner turning for home and that filly never stopped,” said Javier Castellano, aboard Wekeela.
Ireland-bred Elektum was another three-quarters of a length back in third and paid $3.80 to show.
Keri Belle was fourth, followed by Fanticola, Nancy From Nairobi, Dressed to a T and Nashoba’s Gold. Evo Campo was scratched.
Trainer John Sadler saddled Elektum, winless in her last five starts since last August at Del Mar, and Nancy From Nairobi, whose three-race winning streak ended after she never pressed the pace.
With Fanticola using her natural speed to set the early pace, Illuminant settled into second most of the way around until gaining a short lead into the stretch before inching away under Prat’s right-handed whip.
“Fanticola was the only speed in the race, so I knew that I needed to be right there,” Prat said. “My filly has speed too, so I knew it would be OK.”
Fanticola was second by a neck in last year’s Gamely. She finished in the money for the 12th time in 13 races on the track’s turf course.
Illuminant finished third behind winner Tepin and runner-up Wekeela in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley on turf at Keeneland last month.
“The turf is a bit softer here and that’s maybe better for her, especially going a mile and an eighth,” Prat said. “Here at Santa Anita, I feel it’s better if you’re closer to the lead. At Keeneland, it’s a bigger turf course and when you come from off the pace there it’s easier.”
The victory, worth $180,000, increased Illuminant’s career earnings to $367,650, with four wins in 11 starts.