Illuminant wins Grade 1 Gamely Stakes at Santa Anita

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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.

369 horses nominated to compete in Triple Crown series

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A total of 369 3-year-olds were made eligible to compete in this year’s Triple Crown series during the early nomination period.

Each of the horses was nominated through a $600 payment to compete in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes. The Triple Crown opens May 6 with the Derby.

The number of nominated horses increased by 57 from last year’s total of 312. They include a record 37 horses based in Japan.

Among the notable horses is Forte, last year’s 2-year-old champion trained by Todd Pletcher.

Also among the predominantly male horses nominated was a filly named Hoosier Philly.

Brad Cox led all trainers with 38 horses nominated to the series. Pletcher was second with 36 horses, followed by Steve Asmussen and Ken McPeek with 13 each. Chad Brown and Hideyuki Mori had 12 each.

Others nominated include Arabian Knight, Cave Rock and Newgate, all trained by Bob Baffert. He is currently banned by Churchill Downs Inc. through this year’s Derby, although Baffert is challenging his two-year punishment in federal court.

For the Derby, horses under the care of any suspended trainer may be transferred to another trainer and become eligible to earn Derby qualifying points as long as the transfer is done by Feb. 28.

Last year, Baffert transferred two horses to another trainer and both ran in the Derby, although neither was highly placed.

Horses that were not nominated to the Triple Crown series by the early deadline of Jan. 28 can make a late payment of $6,000 through March 27 to become eligible.

Newgate wins Robert B. Lewis Stakes; Baffert runs 1-2-3-4

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Newgate won the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes by a neck, with Bob Baffert as the trainer of all four horses in the Kentucky Derby prep race at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Newgate ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.11 and paid $4 and $2.60 as the even-money favorite. There was no show wagering because of the field size.

Hard to Figure returned $5.20 at 12-1 odds. Worcester was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Arabian Lion was fourth.

“So much improvement in all these horses,” Baffert said. “I was actually nervous before the race, worried that something weird might happen, but I can relax now.”

The Lewis was a Kentucky Derby prep race, but no points were awarded because Baffert has been banned for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The Hall of Fame trainer was in Louisville to testify in federal court as he seeks a temporary injunction to end the suspension, which runs through the end of the upcoming spring meet. It was meted out following a failed drug test by Medina Spirit after the colt finished first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Newgate earned his first graded stakes victory. The colt was second, beaten by a neck in the Sham Stakes last month in his previous start.

“Frankie Dettori has been teaching him how to just sit back, relax and come with a punch and that’s what he did today,” Baffert said.

The victory, worth $120,000, increased Newgate’s career earnings to $241,975, with two wins in six starts.