Also a winner of but one stakes race in her last nine starts, Foxysox edged favored Gotta Have Her by one-half length in a driving finish to capture a companion feature, the Grade III, $100,000 Tuzla Handicap for fillies and mares at one-mile on turf.
“He’s very fast from the gate, but he really doesn’t want to go 21, 44,” Gomez said, referring to the early fractions. “Today, the pace was better for him and he showed some versatility. He was in more of a comfort zone.”
Both Devoted Magic, the 2-1 favorite ridden by Joe Talamo, and 7-1 shot Halo Najib launched bids at the leader turning for home, but, with a single tap on the shoulder, Gomez kept Johnny Eves comfortably in front. Halo Najib wound up third, three-quarters of a length behind Devoted Magic, in the field of seven.
As the 5-2 second choice, Johnny Eves paid $7.20, $3.60 and $2.80. Devoted Magic paid $3.40 and $2.40. The show price on Halo Najib was $4.40.
For Johnny Eves, the performance was a dramatic turnabout from his previous effort in Santa Anita’s Grade III El Conejo Handicap on Jan. 1 when he faded to last while beaten by 17 ¼ lengths in a four-horse field.
Although the bay son of Skimming bled in that race, trainer Jay Robbins didn’t think it was significant enough to affect his performance. “But then, it’s strange,” Robbins added. “I’ve seen a horse gush, and they’ll win, and horses that bleed virtually nothing, run terrible.”
Along with owners Carl and Sharon Hilliard of Mooncoin LLC, Robbins opted to run Johnny Eves in the Palos Verdes rather than Saturday’s $300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint won by Georgie Boy. The trainer explained that a decision by Gomez influenced the action.
“Garrett was riding Georgie Boy,” Robbins said, “and I kind of wanted to keep him on this horse. I also thought the other race was a tougher race.”
The decision led to a winning purse of $90,000 that increased the earnings of Johnny Eves to $581,120 from a lifetime record of 7-4-0 in 20 races.
Rafael Bejarano rallied Foxysox to victory in the 7th running of the Tuzla while methodically wearing down Gotta Have Her nearing the wire and covering the distance in 1:36.44 over a “yielding” turf course. Charming Legacy gained third, one length behind the 2-1 choice ridden by Richard Migliore, and a nose ahead of Storybook in the field of ten.
The winner of Hollywood Park’s Grade II Bayakoa Handicap in December of 2006, Foxysox had subsequently enjoyed only one trip to the winner’s circle with a nose victory in Santa Anita’s Grade II Santa Barbara Handicap in April. The 6-year-old British-bred mare nevertheless was often close against top company and showed a 4 for 8 record over the Santa Anita grass layout.
Dispatched as the third choice in the Tuzla, Foxysox paid $11.20, $5.20 and $4. Gotta Have Her returned $3.80 and $3 while Charming Legacy, with Tyler Baze aboard, paid $5.20 to show.
“I had a perfect trip,” Bejarano said afterward. “I was able to follow the favorite, and I was very confident in my filly even though this was her first time on a wet turf. She finished great, and I have to say it really seemed like she loved it out there.”
Carla Gaines, who trains Foxysox for Warren B. Williamson, said, “I had considered scratching her because of the soft grass. I don’t recall ever running her on anything like this, so I kept vacillating as to what to do. We finally went out and walked the course and then decided to go ahead and let her run.”
Their decision led to a $60,000 payoff which inflated the career earnings of Foxysox to $681,118 from an overall record of 7-2-4 in 24 starts.
After dark days on Monday and Tuesday, Santa Anita will resume racing on Wednesday with an eight-race program that begins at 1 p.m.