ARCADIA, Calif. -- California Nectar won her second consecutive stakes of the winter-spring meeting in Saturday's $150,000 Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita, holding off a late threat from Zazu to win by a neck.
Ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, California Nectar ($8) led throughout, running seven furlongs in 1:21.34. California Nectar set a solid pace of 22.02 and 44.34 seconds while closely pursued by Plum Pretty. With a quarter-mile remaining, Plum Pretty was losing ground against the leader, but Zazu was making progress from last, closing to within three lengths of the lead.
California Nectar led by 1 1/2 lengths over Zazu with a furlong remaining. Zazu, the 6-5 favorite, continued to narrow the gap in the final sixteenth but could not catch the winner.
Plum Pretty held third in the field of seven 3-year-old fillies.
The winner's circle ceremony lacked two key members.
Owner Pablo Suarez and trainer Doug O'Neill missed the race, to spend the afternoon at events involving their children, O'Neill said. The trainer listened to the race on the phone with his brother Dennis, a bloodstock agent who provided a commentary.
The style of the win was a change from California Nectar's victory in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes over seven furlongs for statebred 2-year-old fillies on Dec. 27, when she stalked the pace and took the lead in early stretch before winning by 1 1/2 lengths.
"I left it with Patrick," O'Neill said of the strategy. "I figured we'd be forwardly placed. With her being on the lead, I knew it would be a tough task to run every step of the way."
California Nectar has won 3 of 7 starts and $213,800. The Grade 2 Santa Ynez was her fourth consecutive stakes appearance. She was second by a nose in the California Cup Juvenile Fillies at Hollywood Park on Oct. 30.