ARCADIA, Calif. (April 20, 2012) – After finishing sixth in Grade I and Grade II stakes races, Blingo returned to turf, the surface of his maiden debut victory, and remained unbeaten over grass footing on Friday with a hard-fought triumph in Santa Anita’s $76,500 La Puente Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles.

Under a busy ride by Mike Smith, Blingo made good on his 3-5 favoritism by rallying to defeat Vibrato Jazz by one-half length with Buffalo Billy gaining third, another length back, after veering in at the start. The final time was 1:47.58.

“He was a tad slow at the start,” Smith said afterward. “Then they kept slowing it down in front of him.” Tiz Point, the 3-1 second choice, took the field of five through modest fractions of 23.42, 48.24 and 1:12.14 before fading to last. “I didn’t want to make an early move,” said Smith, “but I had to.”

After tracking in third, Smith moved the gelded son of Artie Schiller into contention while racing wide around the far turn. Challenged by Vibrato Jazz and jockey Joel Rosario in deep stretch, Blingo appeared to re-break in order to seal the victory.

“He’s getting better with each race,” Smith said of the $80,000 auction purchase trained by John Shirreffs for Jerry and Ann Moss. “I think he’s going to be a good one.”

His connections plainly had ambitious plans for Blingo after he broke his maiden by 2 ¼ lengths with a strong finish going one mile in 1:35.80 over Hollywood Park’s turf course on Nov. 25.

Three weeks later, he was chasing Liaison in the Grade I CashCall Futurity at 1 1/16 miles over Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track surface. He finished within three lengths of the winner. Blingo subsequently ran sixth, 7 ¾ lengths behind Creative Cause, in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes over Santa Anita’s main track on March 10.

“He’s a 3-year-old, it was early in the year, and he’s a horse with a lot of talent,” said Shirreffs. “We took a chance and tried it.” Shirreffs regretted that Blingo seemed “a little bit quiet that day. Usually, he’s bouncing around a little bit.”

Blingo clearly demonstrated his determination in the La Puente. He paid $3.20, $2.40 and $2.10. Vibrato Jazz returned $3.60 and $2.80. Buffalo Billy, ridden by David Flores, paid $3.80 to show. The winning purse of $45,900 lifted the earnings of Blingo to $102,900 from his two wins in four starts.

A pair of graded stakes races head Saturday’s 10-race program with Camelia Rose the 2-1 morning line favorite in the Grade II Santa Barbara Handicap (ninth race) and Irish Art the 5-2 choice in the Grade III San Simeon Handicap (fifth race). First post for the final Saturday of Santa Anita’s winter/spring meet is at 12:30 p.m.