With Tyler Baze at the controls, the 5-year-old Royal Academy mare overtook longshot pace-setter Pasar Silbano in upper stretch to score by two lengths while traversing the 6 ½ furlongs on grass in 1:12.09. Tuscan Evening, the 7-2 third choice, finished third another 1 ½ lengths back in the field of nine.
Gotta Have Her, who was cutting back in distance from a neck victory in Del Mar’s Grade II Palomar Handicap at one mile, tracked in fifth place during the early running of the Maddy as David Flores sent Pasar Silbano to a three-length advantage.
Baze found clear sailing along the fence to negotiate his winning move while the early leader stubbornly held the place. Queen Ofthe Catsle, the defending champion who was attempting to become the third two-time winner of the Maddy in its 41st running, was never a factor. Sent off as the second choice at odds of 7-2, Queen Ofthe Catsle checked in eighth.
Trained by Jenine Sahadi for Green Lantern Stables, Gotta Have Her paid $5, $3.40 and $2.60. Irish-bred Pasar Silbano rewarded at $17.60 and $8.60. The show price on Tuscan Evening, ridden by Victor Espinoza, was $3.
“She’s fabulous, I’m so proud of her,” Sahadi said in the winner’s circle. “Horses like her come around once in a lifetime for me,” continued the trainer who has saddled two Breeders’ Cup champions. “I know I can always count on her. To be able to say that is huge.”
In her last nine starts, Gotta Have Her has never been more than 1 ¾ lengths away at the wire while posting four wins, four seconds and a third. Two of those victories were achieved over Santa Anita’s unique downhill turf layout last spring.
“She’s never been beaten down the hill, and I don’t think any horse can beat her here,” said Baze. “The owners and Jenine have just been so nice to me. They let me ride her the last two times with a broken finger. She’s just a dream to ride, she’s so consistent.”
Saturday’s triumph was the eighth in 23 starts for the bay mare. Her record includes six seconds and three thirds. The Maddy’s winning purse of $60,000 elevated her earnings to $690,600.
Sahadi said consideration is being given to starting Gotta Have Her next in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. “We’ll take it one day at a time,” she said.
“She’s always had tons of raw talent,” Sahadi continued. “She’s been a bit of a project, trying to get her to settle down. But she’s just a delight. What can I tell you? I wish I could give her a big hug and a kiss, but she’s anti-social, so I can’t get near her, except when she’s got a lip chain on.”
Oak Tree’s nine-race program on Sunday is headed by the $60,000 Lure Stakes at one mile on turf with Tiz West the 5-2 morning line favorite in a field of eight. First post is at 12:30 p.m.