One of the more accurate cliches in horse racing refers to the fact that the favored horse doesn’t always win: “That’s why they run the races”. This was the case at Los Alamitos last weekend when relatively unheraled Bendable got a very strong start and a great ride from jockey Mike Smith to dominate the prohibitive 1-5 race favorite, the previously undefeated Enola Gay.
Bendable enjoyed her first success in a stakes race with the win. She won her first two starts at Santa Anita in June and July (a maiden race and an optional claimer) and finished second in an optional claimer against older fillies and mares at Del Mar on July 27. Jockey Mike Smith was aboard Bendable who navigated the six furlong course in 1:08.84. Smith says that a strategy session with Bendable’s trainer Richard Mandella gave him the tactical information he needed to win–she likes to be on the lead: “He said, ‘Don’t take anything away from her if it comes easily. I was surprised. I was very loaded and when I asked her, she kicked it in.”
Enola Gay was never in contention for the lead but managed to finish second 3 1/4 lengths ahead of 35-1 third place finisher Everqueen and 2 1/4 lengths behind the race winner. Owner Nick Alexander concedes that Enola Gray was likely done in by a tactical misstep. His horse was in good shape to make a challenge at the turn but jockey Tyler Baze was unable to get to the front. Alexander in retrospect realized that she should have gone to the front at the start: “The plan was to be with the other filly. She’s a nice filly. We ran a good race. We just got beat.”
Enola Gay had been on a nice run this summer. She won the Melair Stakes and Fleet Treat Stakes for California-breds in May and July. Unfortunately, she missed a start in the Grade 3 Torrey Pines Stakes at Del Mar in late August because of illness. Trainer Phil D’Amato said prior to the race that he was confident that Enola Gay had recovered from her illness and he reiterated afterwards that it didn’t play a factor in her defeat.