DATE: Saturday, January 21, 2017
Making her first appearance since winning the GI Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint over the track and distance, Finest City managed to win the battle and the way, impressively kicking off her 5-year-old season in the GII Santa Monica S.
The chestnut, an 8-1 upsetter over Fantastic Style in the GII Great Lady M. S. at Los Alamitos last April, was a good third to Beholder (Henny Hughes) and Stellar Wind (Curlin) in the GI Vanity Mile June 4. She made her next two appearances on the grass, finishing a close fourth in the GII Yellow Ribbon H. at Del Mar July 16 ahead of a head defeat at the hands of future GISW and GI Breeders’ Cup F/M Turf third Avenge (War Front) in the GII John C. Mabee S. Sept. 4. Drawn 12 of 13 in the Filly & Mare Sprint, she showed sharp early speed to argue the pace, was narrowly in front entering the final eighth of a mile and held gamely to best defending champ Wavell Avenue (Harlington).
Hustled away from gate one by Mike Smith, Finest City was able to get to the front, but had significant pace pressure from Fantastic Style, who had the chalk buried down inside on the wet-fast track. The duo was nearly inseparable as they hit the three-furlong pole after a half in a demanding :44.26, but despite that taxing tempo, Finest City found another gear at the three-sixteenths and kicked home a convincing winner.
“Breaking from the one hole in this slop, you gotta get outta there,” said Smith. “She’s never had this kinda dirt in her face and I certainly didn’t want her to get any today. My only concern with being away as long as she has is that we’d probably have to use her from the rail, but I saw she’s been working really well. I knew she’s handled the grass and she’s got a real athletic way of going, so I thought she could probably handle this surface today.”