A Love-ly Finish in the La Brea

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Hard Not To Love | Horsephotos

Hall of Famer Mike Smith racked up 13 of his prior Grade I wins coming from a mile out of it on the back of a John Shirreffs-trained female in Zenyatta (Street Cry {Ire}), so it was only fitting for him to tie Jerry Bailey’s record of 216 Grade I tallies from out of the clouds aboard Hard Not to Love.

The lightly raced ‘TDN Rising Star’, who lost an eye to infection as a yearling, dropped far back to last while well out in the track as heavy chalk Bellafina showed the way with Mother Mother in hot pursuit through splits of :21.70 and :44.41. Hard Not to Love came alive and began to slingshot past rivals around the turn for home, and was third by about four lengths at the top of the lane. Bellafina fended off Mother Mother, but neither frontrunner had any response for Hard Not to Love, who blew by both like they were standing still late under a demonstrably excited Smith.

“It’s quite a feat,” Smith said of tying Bailey. “It is something that is going to go up there as one of my greatest achievements. Just to equal a guy like Jerry Bailey is amazing. He’s someone I’ve looked up to for years. That was actually Jerry’s celebration out of respect.”

A three-length debut winner here Feb. 16, Hard Not to Love defeated older filly and eventual GII L.A. Woman S. winner Lady Ninja (Majesticperfection) in an Apr. 13 optional claimer to remain unbeaten. She settled for third after keenly setting the pace in the track-and-trip Angels Flight S. May 4, but settled better to return to winning ways and earn a career-best 86 Beyer Speed Figure in a second-level optional claimer here Oct. 25.

“She was really a handful going to the gate,” Shirreffs noted. “She only has the one eye (her right), and when she gets nervous, she tends to spin around to see. This was a great race to win. For a filly to win a Grade I, that’s like a PhD, so it makes it especially fulfilling… Mike has really made a difference with her. When he made the decision to ride her, he put his reputation as a horseman on the line. I think that made this even more special.”

West Point’s Terry Finley added, “I’d like to thank the partners because it all starts with them. We were all excited about the race. We felt the big favorite (Bellafina) on paper would be tough to beat, but that is why they run the races and I’m just proud of the entire team… I love the people from all over who are dedicated to our industry and our horses. If we do that every single day I think our game is going to be better. We are all focused on 2020 and we are going to make this industry better.”

Saturday, Santa Anita
LA BREA S.-GI, $301,404, Santa Anita, 12-28, 3yo, f, 7f, 1:22.17, ft.
1–HARD NOT TO LOVE, 120, f, 3, by Hard Spun
1st Dam: Loving Vindication, by Vindication
2nd Dam: Chimichurri, by Elusive Quality
3rd Dam: Hard Knocker, by Raja Baba
1ST BLACK-TYPE WIN, 1ST GRADED STAKES WIN, 1ST GRADE I
WIN. ($400,000 Ylg ’17 KEESEP). ‘TDN Rising Star’
O-Mercedes Stables LLC, West Point Thoroughbreds, Scott
Dilworth, Dorothy & David Ingordo & F. Steve Mooney;
B-Anderson Farms Ont. Inc. (ON); T-John A. Shirreffs; J-Mike E.
Smith. $180,000. Lifetime Record: 5-4-0-1, $288,480. *1/2 to
Wonder Gadot (Medaglia d’Oro), Horse of the Year, Ch. 2yo &
3yo Filly-Can, MGSW & MGISP, $1,524,861; Solemn Tribute
(Medaglia d’Oro), SW & GSP, $181,234. Werk Nick Rating: C+.
Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Bellafina, 122, f, 3, by Quality Road
1st Dam: Akron Moon, by Malibu Moon
2nd Dam: Akronism, by Not For Love
3rd Dam: Jerry Bomb, by Explosive Bid
($220,000 RNA Ylg ’17 KEESEP; $800,000 2yo ’18 FTFMAR).
O-Kaleem Shah, Inc., Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor &
Derrick Smith; B-JSM Equine, LLC (KY); T-Simon Callaghan.
$60,000.
3–Mother Mother, 120, f, 3, by Pioneerof the Nile
1st Dam: Mother, by Lion Hearted
2nd Dam: Proper Lassie, by Topsider
3rd Dam: Proper Miss, by Tom Rolfe
($450,000 Ylg ’17 KEESEP). ‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Old Bones
Racing Stable, LLC, Barry Hall, Barry Lipman & Mark
Mathiesen; B-T F Van Meter (KY); T-Bob Baffert. $36,000.
Margins: 2 1/4, 1, 4HF. Odds: 11.60, 0.60, 6.30.
Also Ran: First Star, Bell’s the One, Del Mar May, Stirred, Motion Emotion, Free Cover.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

Pedigree Notes:
Hard Not to Love is the 13th highest-level winner (40th graded) for her sire, whose much-deserved first and only Grade I win also came at seven panels in the 2007 King’s Bishop S.
Ontario-based breeder David Anderson paid $180,000 for the winner’s dam, who boasted a 104 Beyer Speed Figure top herself, at the 2011 Keeneland January sale. Her first foal was Solemn Tribute (Medaglia d’Oro), a $385,000 KEESEP yearling who would go on to become a stakes winner and graded stakes-placed. Three seasons later came Wonder Gadot (Medaglia d’Oro), who Anderson sold for $80,000 as a KEESEP yearling. She’d go to on to be named Canada’s champion 2-year-old filly in 2017, and champion 3-year-old filly and Horse of the Year in 2018 after annexing the Queen’s Plate, before bringing $2 million at this year’s Fasig-Tipton November sale.

Anderson sold Loving Vindication’s unraced 2-year-old Loch Garman (Bodemeister) for $300,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton October sale, and then bought back the mare for $1.45 million in that same sales ring that November. Loving Vindication, a daughter of GSW Chimichurri (Elusive Quality), produced a Nyquist filly in 2018 and Curlin colt Apr. 23. She was bred back to Medaglia d’Oro.

An A.P. Indy half-sister to Loving Vindication produced this year’s GI Beholder Mile S. heroine Secret Spice (Discreet Cat), who would go on to fetch $1.4 million at Fasig November.

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