The Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap, run at seven furlongs, saw a classy group of fillies and mares at Santa Anita January, 31. Free Flying Soul, trained by Bruce Headley, was the early morning line favorite and received some pace relief when Tuscan Evening scratched out of the contest.
Going into the race jockey Rafael Bejarano was confident Proviso, a five-year-old mare by Dansili, could adapt to the surface at Santa Anita. “She ran well over Polytrack three times at Keeneland… worked really nice the other day.” Bejarano said.
Czechers, Free Flying Soul, and Gabby’s Golden Gal battled for the early lead through manageable fractions. Down the backstretch, jockey Martin Garcia took Gabby’s Golden Gal off the pace to sit right behind the leaders.
Proviso was parked behind the trio and appeared loaded on the far turn. Garcia moved Gabby’s Golden Gal to grab the lead and she would never give it away. Proviso made a nice run at her but was unable to reach the winner. Free Flying Soul hung on to finish third while Czechers finished fourth.
The win is the biggest in Garcia’s young career. After the race he thanked Gabby’s Golden Gal’s trainer, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, for giving him the opportunity. “This is my first grade one and I want to dedicate it to Bob.” Garcia said. Baffert has given Garcia many live mounts this meet and the two have proved to be a formidable team. Arnold Zetcher is the winning owner of Gabby’s Golden Gal.
Racing will resume on Wednesday with a Pick Six carryover of $126,946.