In her first race since she was crowned the female sprint champion of 2020, Gamine looked like she was primed to pull off a repeat.
Racing for the first time without Lasix, she was an easy, 5 1/4-length winner versus only three rivals in the $100,000 Las Flores Stakes (G3) on another sun-splashed spring day at Santa Anita.
Carrying her regular rider John Velázquez as part of a career-high 124 pounds, Gamine (1-9) led from gate to wire and was never pressed.
“She came back so good,” Velázquez said. “She felt as good as last year. She does everything so effortlessly. Everything she does makes my job a lot easier. I just steer where I want to go, and that’s it. That’s the biggest point of her strength.”
Gamine cruised the six furlongs under Velázquez’s hand ride in 1:09.52 on the fast main track, running her record to 5-for-5 in one-turn races.
“We know she’s fast,” Gamine’s trainer Bob Baffert said. “She’s filled out, and she looked so professional when she came into the paddock. She couldn’t have looked any better.”
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Qahira (10-1), a 5-year-old stakes winner for Baffert, was a distant second. Biddy Duke (30-1), a 4-year-old Grade 3 turf winner from Doug O’Neill’s barn, was third. Hang a Star (40-1), a 5-year-old allowance winner trained by Ian Kruljac, was last of the four.
In winning her 4-year-old debut, Gamine ran her career record to 7: 5-0-0. That contains three Grade 1 triumphs and this first Grade 3 with earnings of $973,000 for her owner Michael Lund Pedersen, the Danish founder of Pandora Jewelry who paid $1.8 million for her nearly two years ago.
If one were to find any flaw in the race, Baffert said it was at the start.
“She jumped over some tire tracks coming out of the gate,” he said. “Little things like that can happen. The way she came back she handled it pretty well.”
Despite the imperfect start, Gamine clicked fractions of 22.74 and 45.77 seconds for the first quarter- and half-mile on the way to Baffert’s fifth victory in the Las Flores, a record for the race, and Velázquez’s second.
There is apparently room for improvement for Gamine. “Bob thinks she’s not ready yet,” Velázquez said. “That’s what he told me.”
The competition will be tougher next time. Gamine’s next stop is the seven-furlong, $500,000 Derby City Distaff (G1) on the Kentucky Derby undercard May 1. Asked whether the Into Mischief filly will stay in sprints, Baffert said, “We’re just going to go race by race. I think you’ll see her in New York. We’ll just have fun with her. We’ll watch her run, and there’s big races in the summer. We just want to keep her healthy and happy and get to the Breeders’ Cup at the end.”
The only stakes race on Sunday’s card marked Gamine’s first start since she won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint last November. It was also her first time racing at Santa Anita since her debut victory 13 months ago. She has since competed at five other racetracks with wins at Belmont Park, Saratoga and Keeneland.
Gamine’s career has been checkered by two demotions to last place for drug positives. One cost her a win in an allowance race last spring at Oaklawn. The other dropped her from a third-place result in the Kentucky Oaks, the only time she has failed to cross the finish line first.
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