05/14/2016 9:25PM

Central Heat extends winning streak to seven by repeating in Golden Poppy

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Russell Baze, riding for the first time since recovering from a fractured collarbone, guides Central Heat to victory in the Golden Poppy.

Central Heat recorded her seventh straight victory as she scored a repeat in the $61,025 Golden Poppy at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday.

The 7-year-old Central Heat ($3.40), a daughter of Unusual Heat, was content to sit well off the honest pace set by Elprado’s Heirloom in the 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

She was actually last heading into the second turn as jockey Russell Baze, riding for the first time since sustaining a fractured collarbone on April 16, dropped back to keep from getting stuck behind horses.

Baze threaded Central Heat out for a clear path around the second turn and swung five wide as the field entered the stretch.

Central Heat, who defeated Chocolatier by four lengths on April 24 in her first race in more than 8 1/2 months, wore down her rivals in the lane, moving strongly at the top of the stretch and continuing resolutely to the wire, inching away from Chocolatier late to win by one-half length in 1:43.54. Envahir was third, another three-quarter length back.

Chocolatier, who had opened a six-length lead down the backstretch in the April 24 prep for the Golden Poppy, was content to sit behind Central Heat in the early going but got first run on her on the second turn.

Trainer Bill Delia, who co-owns the mare with Dana Rocheford, had feared Central Heat might bounce following her prep victory. He called the effort “unbelievable” considering the 20-day turnaround since her comeback.

“Russell said she didn’t handle the turf real good. It might be deeper than it looks,” said Delia. “He had to get into her a little bit after she made the lead, but he just nudged her.

“I think Russell has a lot of confidence in her, and she responds to him. When I saw her last going into the [second] turn, I thought there was no way she could win, but she moved up so quick on the turn I began to think ‘maybe, maybe.’ She’s probably the best I’ve ever had my hands on.”

The victory, worth $39,450, was her 15th in 34 starts and increased her career earnings to $364,101.