by Frank Vespe
The questions facing were Lady Sabelia prior to this afternoon’s Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap were plentiful: who had she beaten? Could she thrive on a fast track? And how would she handle the likes of Grade 1 winner Sam’s Sister?
Consider those question answered — in spades — and the possibilities limitless for the five-year-old daughter of Majestic Warrior.
Lady Sabelia, trained locally by Robin Graham and owned by breeder Mrs. Frank Wright, pulled clear early, rated comfortably through zippy fractions, and had plenty in the tank to hold the closers at bay, romping to a 1 1/2 length victory in 1:23.14. Princess Violet stalked from second throughout and held that position, while longshot Expression rallied into third. Sam’s Sister, winner of two graded events at Santa Anita, finished fourth.
“She has natural speed,” said Lady Sabelia’s jockey, Horacio Karamanos. “She wanted to go to the front. There was nothing to cover me up so I let her go.”
Lady Sabelia jetted through an opening quarter-mile in 22 3/5 seconds and a half-mile in 45 3/5. At that point, she held a two-length lead over Princess Violet.
“I thought there would be more speed in the race,” lamented Jose Ortiz, who rode Princess Violet.
Turning for home, Lady Sabelia kicked clear, opening a 3 1/2 length lead, and held firm to the wire.
It answered the questions — and confirmed that Lady Sabelia might just be all that.
“She has been getting better from a year and a half ago,” said Robin Graham, her trainer. “She is cool and relaxed about everything. Whatever you ask her to do she does.”
The surprise — and disappointment — of the afternoon was the fourth-place finish of post-time favorite Sam’s Sister. The four-year-old Jerry Hollendorfer trainee had cleaned up at her Santa Anita base, most notably defeating ultra-talented Taris and Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint show horse Thank You Marylou in the Grade 1 La Brea late in 2014. Today, however, in her first foray outside of southern California, she had no answers for the home team.
“My horse never picked it up today,” said her regular rider, Elvis Trujillo, who shipped in to pilot the horse.
The Fritchie was intended to be something of a dress rehearsal for the Breeders’ Cup for Sam’s Sister.
While all possibilities are still out there for her — and for the rest of the field — it is Lady Sabelia’s future that presents perhaps the most intriguing questions.
“We haven’t thought past today,” said Graham. “We wanted to see where this goes. I will consider taking her to bigger things.”