After a brief scramble for the early lead, Century Park took control under jockey Tyler Baze, was able to dictate the tempo with moderate fractions, and had enough in reserve to deter hard-charging 3-1 favorite Haka by one length.
The outcome provided Tyler Baze with his first victory since he returned to the saddle on Wednesday after recovering from rib and shoulder injuries sustained in a single-horse spill at Hollywood Park on Dec. 5.
It was just the second career win for Century Park, who broke her maiden in her fifth start for owner-breeder Donald Dizney and finished ninth in her previous start, the Grade III Miesque Stakes on Nov. 28 at Hollywood Park.
Haka, with Garrett Gomez aboard, finished 1 ½ lengths ahead of third-place Will O Way with Joel Rosario in the irons. Baffert’s other entrants, Toro Bonito, 4-1, and Jemmealey, 12-1, wound up seventh and ninth, respectively, in the field of nine.
Century Park lit up the tote board with payoffs of $51.40, $21.20 and $12. Haka returned $5.20 and $4.40. The show price on Will O Way was $6.20.
Standing with Century Park in the winner’s circle, Baffert said, “She likes this surface better than the other two fillies,” he said. “I thought, ‘She loves it so much, let’s try her here.’ I expected her to be on the lead. That’s why I put Tyler on her.
“We wanted to run one-two-three,” Baffert continued, “but at least we got a win out of it anyhow. This filly has really trained well over this surface. She really likes it. We knew it was a step up for her, but we took a chance. I thought Tyler was a good fit for her. He put her on the lead, put them all to sleep, and we got the job done.”
“This morning when I looked at The Form, it didn’t look like there was much speed in the race,” Baze said. “When Rafael (Bejarano on Lady Lumberjack) took back off me a little, that made things easier. It’s nice to get my first win. It’s like getting the monkey off my back, and it relieves the pressure.”
The 26-year-old jockey had gone winless with his first eight mounts at the meet. On Sunday morning, he decided to shave a “holiday” beard. “My agent advised me to find my razor,” Baze explained.
The winning purse of $60,000 more than doubled Century Park’s previous earnings of $49,360 to bring the total to $109,360 from a 2-2-1 record in seven races.
After dark days on Monday and Tuesday, Santa Anita resumes racing on Wednesday with an eight-race card beginning at 1 p.m.
SANTA YSABEL STAKES QUOTES
TYLER BAZE, CENTURY PARK, WINNER: “This morning when I looked at The Form, it didn’t look like there was much speed in the race. Bob (Baffert) and Jimmy (assistant trainer Barnes) both had a lot of confidence in this filly. When Rafael (Bejarano, aboard Lady Lumberjack) took back off me a little bit, that made things easier. It’s nice to get my first win, it’s like getting the monkey off my back and it relieves the pressure”
WHEN ASKED WHAT MOTIVATED HIM TO SHAVE HIS HOLIDAY BEARD THIS MORNING: “My agent advised me to find my razor.”
BOB BAFFERT, CENTURY PARK, WINNER: “She likes this surface better than the other two (fillies he ran in this race). I thought, ‘She loves it so much, let’s try her.’ I expected her to be on the lead. That’s why I put Tyler (Baze) on her. We wanted to run one-two-three, but at least we got a win out of it, anyhow. This filly really has trained well over this surface. She really likes it. We knew it was a step up for her . . . but we took a chance. I thought Tyler was a good fit for her. He put her on the lead, put them all to sleep (with slow fractions) and got the job done.”
NOTES: The winning owner/breeder is Donald Dizney from Ocala, Fl.