With Corey Nakatani aboard for the first time in the 5-year-old mare’s 24-race career, City to City charged to a narrow lead in deep stretch before stoutly resisting the closing bid by Up In Time and jockey Brice Blanc on the extreme outside. It was another half-length back to Wild Mia and David Flores in the blanket finish.
The public was torn among splashy Chilean import Vamo a Galupiar (3-1 favorite), British newcomer Strawberrydaiquiri (3-1) and Irish-bred Grade I winner Cambina (7-2), whose odds continually fluctuated.
City to City, meanwhile, was looking for her second stakes victory in 13 starts -- after a span that included losing by one length or less on six occasions -- and her first since taking the Grade II Palomar Handicap on Sept. 5 at Del Mar. She gained little attention this day.
Nakatani kept the City Zip mare, co-owned by Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, in the clear while running in mid-pack during the early going. He moved his mare three wide rounding the final turn to finally overtake Strawberrydaiquiri. The latter quickly dropped back to fourth. She was immediately followed across the line by Cambina and Vamo a Galupiar.
“We were hoping that there would be some legitimate pace in the race, and in a mile race, there always is,” said Nakatani. “This filly was doing fabulous coming into the race. I couldn’t have been in a better spot, and the way the race developed was perfect.”
Nakatani felt certain his mount had crossed the finish line first. “But Brice’s horse was flying at me,” he added, “and I wasn’t sure if we would hold on. When that filly came to her, she (City to City) actually started to run again. I just made sure I had enough horse to get to the position I wanted to be in, and she ran a big race.”
Assistant trainer Dan Ward, deputizing for Hollendorfer, thought a shift in weights proved beneficial. City to City carried 119 pounds on Monday after having shouldered 123 in the Frankel. “She was carrying five pounds more than anybody else in the Frankel and that makes a big difference,” noted Ward.
Those who retained faith in City to City were rewarded with payoffs of $19, $7 and $5.20. Up In Time returned $9 and $6.20. Wild Mia paid $5.80 to show. The victory was worth $90,000 to Hollendorfer and partners William DeBurgh and Mark DeDomenico. The winning purse boosted City to City’s career earnings to $509,491 from an overall record of 7-5-5 in 24 races.
According to Ward, the Grade II, $150,000 Santa Ana Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on March 15 and the Grade II, $150,000 Santa Barbara Stakes at the same distance on April 21 would be considered for future starts for the Buena Vista winner.
One of the most popular fighters in Southern California boxing history, Danny “Little Red” Lopez, presented the Buena Vista trophy.
Following dark days on Tuesday and Wednesday, racing resumes on Thursday at Santa Anita with an eight-race program. First post is at 1 p.m.