Bob Baffert-trained Marley’s Freedom turned in another sharp victory Saturday, one that cements her near the top of the filly and mare sprint division, as she ran down Selcourt to win the Grade 2, $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Only a $35,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase for Ron and Barbara Perry’s Cicero Farms LLC, Marley's Freedom picked up her fifth graded stakes win in the Santa Monica, a race she finished second in a year ago.
“She just is a gift from God,” Barbara Perry said. “She just is so sweet, she’s so much fun to be around, and she just lays it down every time she runs.”
Selcourt grabbed the lead and set fractions of 22.48 and 45.07 to start the seven-furlong event. Marley’s Freedom, ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, and Paradise Woods were in tight for second and third, with the former edging forward on the outside and the latter on the rail. Mopotism and Escape Clause weren’t far behind to complete the field.
Selcourt still held the lead turning for home but Marley’s Freedom loomed on the outside. The 3-5 favorite challenged the pacesetter and pulled ahead by 1 ¼, crossing the wire in 1:22.34 over a track rated "good."
“She was hunting Selcourt all the way down the backside,” Ron Perry said. “Drayden had an intent to sit on her and not let her get away, and that’s what he did. He ran a perfect race. She ran a perfect race.”
Bob told me to be sure to warm her up real good and to get her running away from there," Van Dyke added. "She did and we had a good tactical spot. I was just sitting on her, but I had to get after Selcourt a little early because it looked like she was running pretty easy on the lead."
Finishing behind Selcourt was Mopotism, Escape Clause and Paradise Woods.
The Santa Monica marked the first start for Paradise Woods since she was transferred to trainer John Shirreffs in December. The 5-year-old mare has not visited the winner's circle since the 2017 Zenyatta Stakes (G1).
Meanwhile, it was the eighth win in 15 starts for Marley's Freedom. The 5-year-old daughter of Blame earned her first stakes win last summer in Santa Anita's Desert Stormer (G3), followed by the Great Lady M. Stakes (G2) at Los Alamitos and the Ballerina Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.
She finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, beaten half a length, before capping off 2018 with a win in Aqueduct's Go for Wand Handicap (G3).
Marley's Freedom is approaching the million-dollar milestone, with the Santa Monica pushing her earnings to $935,935.
"I'm proud of her," Baffert commented, "and she always shows up."