Sugar Fish overcomes poor start to win Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita

Pick Pony |June 8, 2024, 1:07 p.m.

After a poor start, Sugar Fish, under Tyler Baze, delivered a strong performance to become the unexpected winner of the GII, $200,000 Summertime Oaks on Saturday at Santa Anita.

Despite being the least favored (5-1) and making her stakes debut, Sugar Fish, trained by Jeff Mullins, recovered from her initial position at the back of the pack. As the field approached the quarter pole, she made a swift move along the rail, pulling ahead in the stretch to secure a victory by 9 ¾ lengths.

“She stumbled pretty good today, but then she got her feet up from under her and just took me,” Baze said.

Mullins stated frankly, "I thought we were done" after the poor start. He added, "We knew it was a risk entering this race, but we've always recognised her potential. Halfway through, I felt confident. When Tyler overtook on the turn and no one else was advancing, I knew we'd won."

Grade II Santa Anita Oaks winner Nothing Like You, the favourite, came in second, with Jane Austen (7-2) a further three-quarters of a length behind in third. Despite racing wide, Nothing Like You seemed promising on the second turn but then lost momentum in the final stretch.

Without show wagering, Sugar Fish paid out $13.40 and $3.20. Bob Baffert's trainee, Nothing Like You, returned $2.20. The winning time for 1 1/16 miles was 1:43.41.

Jane Austen, undefeated in two starts before her stakes debut for trainer Mark Glatt, set fractions of 23.80, 47.41 and 1:11.55 under Antonio Fresu.

Sugar Fish, a $40,000 auction purchase, improved her record to 6: 3-1-0 with $183,400 in earnings. Owned by Sweetwater Stable and Talla Racing, the Accelerate filly came into the race off a narrow win against older horses in a first-level allowance on April 26 at Santa Anita. This was her first race around two turns. Before this, she won seven furlongs by 10 lengths in a maiden/optional claimer for a $40,000 tag.

For Baze, this was his first graded stakes victory since the 2022 GII Santa Margarita on Blue Stripe at Santa Anita. He has ridden Sugar Fish in her last four races.

“She has been doing so good, she’s growing up and maturing,” Baze said. “She reminds me a lot of her daddy. I got to ride him and now I get the opportunity to ride this filly. I hope she is as good as he was.

Mullins secured his third victory in the Summertime Oaks, with previous wins in 2005 with Brooke's Halo and 2009 with Carlsbad.

“We’ve always known that she is a good filly, but she’s had temperamental issues here and there,” Mullins said. “She has just gotten better and better as she’s gone long.

Racing will continue live this Sunday. There will be nine races, starting at 1 p.m. Gates for admission will open at 11 a.m.