Private Mission’s debut in trainer Sean McCarthy’s barn was a victorious one Saturday at Santa Anita as the 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief held off Blue Stripe to win the $200,000 Grade II Santa Maria Stakes for fillies and mares.
Transferred to McCarthy when Bob Baffert’s 90-day suspension went into effect, Private Mission tracked pacesetter Lady Mystify from second up the backside, took a 2 1/2-length lead at the head of the stretch and outfinished Blue Stripe by three-quarters of a length for her fifth victory in nine starts.
Sent postward as the 7-5 favorite, Private Mission ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.46 while winning for the fourth time in six tries at Santa Anita. Blue Stripe, the 8-5 second choice who went into the race off a one-length victory in the Grade II Santa Margarita Stakes on April 30, held second by a half length over Varda.
“She broke really sharp and as soon as she saw Lady Mystify in front of me, she relaxed and she was just waiting for me to ask her to go,” said winning jockey Juan Hernandez, who earned his meet-leading 23rd stakes victory. “I’m really happy because I’m doing well. I just want to thank all the owners and trainers for supporting me. I really appreciate it. I just love to win and ride horses.”
The 30-year-old Hernandez long ago clinched the Santa Anita riding title. The victory in the Santa Maria was his 102nd of the meeting as he joined Flavien Prat (2020-21) as the only riders to win more than 100 races during a single Santa Anita meet in the past 27 years.
Private Mission, a $750,000 yearling purchase in 2019, was a two-time graded stakes winner last year, but went into the Santa Maria off a three-race losing streak. She finished second, beaten seven lengths by Edgeway, in the Grade III Las Flores Stakes on March 13 in her only other start this year.
“I watched her break and it was perfect,” McCarthy said. “Private Mission had been training great and full credit to all the crew, Jimmy (Barnes) and everyone. They have done a great job with her and she’s come along well. We passed a race up in New York to stay for this race, which ended up being the right decision.”
Private Mission raised her career earnings to $397,300 with the winner’s check of $120,000, making her two for two at the Santa Maria distance.
The winning trophy was presented by popular Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye, who was in town with his wife Juanita to visit family. Sporting a New Orleans Saints cap, the native Louisianan was given a nice ovation from fans when introduced by track announcer Frank Mirahmadi.
Absolutely Zero, the only filly in the nine-horse field, made it two for two in her career by winning the $100,000 stakes for 2-year-olds. The daughter of Nyquist, trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by Mario Gutierrez, ran the 5 furlongs in 59.09 seconds as the 4-5 favorite.A winner of her career debut by 1 3/4 lengths at Santa Anita on May 21, Absolutely Zero beat stablemate Tahoma by one length. It was another half length back to third-place finisher Pure Fire.
Stone Cold, a first-time starter for trainer John Sadler, went gate to wire and won the $100,000 race for 2-year-old fillies by 3 1/4 lengths under Ramon Vazquez.The 3-1 second choice in the wagering, the daughter of Adios Charlie ran the 5 furlongs in 58.28 while easily holding off the closing rally of 3-5 favorite Tom’s Regent, who stumbled badly at the start.