San Luis Rey Training Center filly Daddysruby and former San Luis Rey colt Watsonville won graded stakes races on Opening Day for the Santa Anita Park winter meet Tuesday, Dec. 26.
Daddysruby, who is trained by Peter Miller, won the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes. Watsonville, who is trained by Mark Glatt and was at San Luis Rey before beginning his racing career, won the Grade 2 Mathis Mile Stakes.
The La Brea Stakes was a seven-furlong dirt race for three-year-old fillies. Nine horses competed, and Daddysruby had the inside post position.
“We knew from the inside that we would have to go,” Miller said.
Daddysruby had Juan Hernandez for her jockey.
“We just wanted to get a good position because we were on the rail,” Hernandez said.
Fast and Shiny was the first horse out of the starting gate. Hernandez and Daddysruby broke fifth.
“I watched the other horses break, and I knew we didn’t need to go right to the lead. We broke quick,” Hernandez said.
“We knew she had a lot of speed and we knew he kind of had to go,” Miller said. “I told Juan: ‘Help her away from there if they go crazy, she doesn’t need the lead, you can sit, but if you can get the lead take it.’ And he did.”
During the first two furlongs Hernandez and Daddysruby moved into first. The initial quarter of a mile took them 22.21 seconds, and they led second-place Howl by half a length and third-place Big Pond by one length.
The lead over Howl had increased to 1 1/2 lengths when Daddysruby completed the first half of a mile 44.49 seconds after the race began. Howl led Big Pond by a head at that point.
By the time Daddysruby entered the stretch 1:09.60 after the starting gate was opened Big Pond had moved into second. Big Pond was a length in back of Daddysruby and three lengths ahead of third-place Clearly Unhinged.
Big Pond moved alongside Daddysruby in the final 50 yards.
“I wasn’t so sure when we crossed the wire, but when my number went up, I was so happy,” Hernandez said.
The photo finish determined that Daddysruby, whose time was 1:23.06, was the winner.
“You don’t remember all the photo finishes that you won, you remember all the ones that you’ve lost, so I’m sitting here thinking I lost another one. Another C Z Rocket in the Santa Anita Sprint and another Reneesgotzip in the Santa Anita Oaks, here we go again. I just sat up there and waited for the steward’s decision,” Miller said.
In 2022, C Z Rocket finished a nose behind the winner in the Grade 2 Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes, although he was in the back of the six-horse field for most of the race and entered the stretch in fifth. Reneesgotzip was a three-year-old in 2012 when she lost by a nose in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks after leading most of the race.
Daddysruby is owned by Gary Barber of Jethorse LLC and Wachtel Stable.
“Winning like that it’s thrilling and we’re very happy,” Barber said. “She is just all heart, and she was just a warrior today. There's nothing better than winning a Grade 1 on Opening Day.”
Jethorse was also the breeder of Daddysruby, who was foaled in California May 16, 2020. She was sired by Frac Daddy out of Youtheprizeandi.
Before Jethorse took on the other ownership partners, Daddysruby was based in Northern California. Her first race was at Golden Gate Fields Jan. 7, 2023, and she won that six-furlong race by three lengths. After being assigned to Miller she raced at Santa Anita March 11, 2023, and won the six-furlong race by 1 1/4 lengths. She won her Aug. 4 race at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club but finished fourth at Del Mar in on Sept. 3. Her most recent race before the La Brea Stakes was a win Oct. 27, at Santa Anita.
The $300,000 La Brea Stakes total purse included $180,000 for the winner to bring Daddysruby’s career earnings to $352,014.
Watsonville was foaled in Kentucky April 9, 2020, was sold at a March 2021 yearling sale, and was purchased by Hans Maron in an April 2022 sale for two-year-olds. Maron and his wife, Ana, comprise an entity called Saints or Sinners and they share ownership of Watsonville with Pine Racing Stables.
Mark Pine grew up in the Santa Cruz County town of Watsonville and named the horse after his hometown after obtaining Maron’s concurrence. After training at San Luis Rey as a two-year-old, Watsonville was transferred to Santa Anita. His first race was at Santa Anita May 13, 2023, and he finished fourth. His next five races included wins July 29, and Sept. 4, at Del Mar.
The Mathis Mile Stakes was a one-mile turf race for three-year-olds. Former San Luis Rey horses Ah Jeez and Calm Sea were also among the six entries. Calm Sea had the second post position, Ah Jeez started in the fourth gate from the rail, and Watsonville began on the outside.
“I wanted to keep him up close today and give him a target,” Antonio Fresu, who was Watsonville’s jockey, said.
Calm Sea and jockey Mario Gutierrez broke first. Watsonville and Fresu were the second entry out of the gate. Ah Jeez and rider Junior Alvarado broke fourth but soon fell back to fifth, where they finished.
The first quarter of a mile took Calm Sea 23.77 seconds, and at that point, he led Watsonville by half a length. Watsonville was half a length in front of third-place Panic Alarm.
After half a mile, a distance Calm Sea reached in 48.20 seconds, he still had a half-length lead over Watsonville. Panic Alarm trailed Watsonville by 1 1/2 lengths and was a head in front of fourth-place Almendares.
Watsonville had the lead by the time he completed three-quarters of a mile 1:11.76 after the race began. He led Calm Sea by a head. Almendares moved into third, a length behind Calm Sea.
Almendares took over second place before entering the stretch. He was a length behind Watsonville and half a length in front of Calm Sea, who fell from third to sixth during the stretch. Watsonville needed 1:23.16 to reach the stretch.
Watsonville and Almendares traded the lead during the stretch.
“The favorite actually passed us, but my horse dug in,” Fresu said.
The winning time for Watsonville was 1:34.55. Almendares finished second by a nose and crossed the finish line three-quarters of a length ahead of third-place Dandy Man Shines.
The Mathis Mile Stakes had a total purse of $200,000 including $120,000 for first place. Watsonville increased his career earnings to $253,360 with the victory.