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Neige Blanche Noses Out Rideforthecause In Santa Barbara

All in while three deep a quarter mile from home, French-bred Neige Blanche managed to nip Rideforthecause by a scant nose after a marathon mile and one half on turf in Saturday’s Grade 3, $ 100,000 Santa Barbara Stakes at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.  Ridden by Juan Hernandez and trained by native Frenchman Leonard Powell, Neige Blanche, which translates to white snow in English, registered her first North American stakes win while stopping the clock in 2:28.01.

Starting mid-way up Santa Anita’s legendary hillside turf course, heavily favored Tapwater, with Flavien Prat up, appeared to be in firm control on the lead as longshot Star of Africa tracked her in second, about one length off the lead as they crossed under the wire for the first time.

Turning up the backside, Tapwater maintained her one length edge, but Hernandez had a handful of horse, about three off the lead heading to the far turn and in a thriller, gained joint command along with Rideforthecause a sixteenth of a mile out as Tapwater faded late to run third.

“It was really close, it could probably go both ways, 50-50, inside or outside and thanks to my filly, we got it,” said Hernandez who chalked up his third win on the day and his seventh stakes win.  “It was better, because last time (a fourth place finish in the Grade III Santa Ana Stakes March 27) I think we were a little too close to the pace and today, I was a little bit more (relaxed).  Two horses in front of me and she relaxed pretty well.  Around the quarter pole, when I asked her to go, she responded really well.”

A Group 3 winner in her final French start on June 6, 2020, but winless in four stateside starts, Neige Blanche was off at 5-1 in a field of seven fillies and mares three and up and paid $ 13.40, $ 7.00 and $ 3.60.

“No, honestly, I thought the inside got it,” said Powell when asked if he thought he had won the tight photo finish, in which Neige Blanche was positioned outside the runner-up.  “If we were going to be in front, it was going to have to be a lucky bob and it was a lucky bob.  Today, she proved that she belongs and that she was worth the investment.  I want to thank the partners, Madaket Stables, Marsha Naify and (Laura) De Seroux for trusting us with her.”

A 4-year-old filly by Anodin out of the Muhtathir mare Bianca Neve, Neige Blanche now has four wins from 11 starts and with the winner’s share of $ 60,000, increased her earnings to $ 177,112.

In a gut wrenching defeat, Rideforthecause, ridden by Mario Gutierrez, finished 1 ¾ lengths in front of Tapwater and paid $ 6.20 and $ 3.40 while off at 6-1.

Trained by Richard Mandella, Tapwater was off at even money and paid $ 2.40 to show.

Fractions on the race were 23.72, 48.08, 1:13.56, 1:39.27 and 2:03.80.

Racing resumes with a nine-race card on Sunday with first post time at 1 p.m.

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