But the Santa Monica wasn’t as easy for her as the Breeders’ Cup event in which she blew away eventual Eclipse Award winner Indian Blessing with a majestic rally from 9 ½ lengths behind that left her covering seven furlongs over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface in a blistering 1:19.90.
Jibboom, who pressed early pace-setter Baroness Thatcher, gamely held second under Rafael Bejarano while finishing 2 ¼ lengths ahead of She’s Cheeky and jockey Alex Solis. Ventura rallied from fourth place after trailing by 5 lengths during the early running.
Bet down to 3-10 favoritism following the expected withdrawal of female sprint champion Indian Blessing, Ventura paid $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10. Jibboom, the 9-2 second choice, returned $3 and $2.40. The show payoff on She’s Cheeky was $2.80.
“I was nervous at that price, and she hadn’t been out in a while,” remarked winning trainer Bobby Frankel, “but I was satisfied with the way it turned out. I didn’t really train her that hard, and you’re always a little nervous being away three months. If she’s 10-1, I wouldn’t have been so nervous.”
Gomez indicated he was never concerned. “She was traveling beautifully for me,” he said. “It felt like I had a loaded gun the whole time. The only reason I had to get into her a little was that when she makes the lead, she thinks her job is done. I’ve learned that I’ve got to spank her a little bit, and that way, she knows she’s not done.”
The victory was the Kentucky-bred Chester House mare’s fifth in eight United States starts since being imported from England. She has finished second twice and third once. Gomez, who has been aboard each time, may be her biggest fan.
“She does it all,” he said prior to the Santa Monica. The winner of four Breeders’ Cup races last October, he called Ventura’s victory “the most impressive” of the two-day attraction. “I call her my little deer,” said the Eclipse Award-winning jockey. “She’s petite and she’s strong. Her turn of foot is amazing, on grass or synthetic.”
Frankel indicated that Ventura might race next on April 9 at Keeneland in the Grade I, $300,000 Vinery Madison Stakes at seven furlongs, a race she captured one year ago for her first U.S. stakes victory. “From there, I might have to put her back on grass,” the Hall of Fame trainer added.
Ventura’s victory in the Santa Monica was worth $180,000 which pushed her career earnings to $1,539,470 from an 8-5-1 record in 16 lifetime starts.
A supporting feature for fillies and mares at 6 ½ furlongs on turf, the $84,600 Wishing Well Handicap was taken by 12-1 shot Dawn After Dawn with Bejarano aboard. The 5-year-old mare trained by John Sadler defeated Christiana’s Heat by one-half length while running the distance in 1:12.46. Shermeen finished third. The winner paid $26 after recording her first victory seven successive setbacks for Ike and Dawn Thrash.
Santa Anita will have an early post of 11 a.m. on Super Bowl Sunday when presenting a nine-race program highlighted by the Grade III, $100,000 La Habra Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 6 ½ furlongs on turf.