01/18/2016 7:37AM

Clean trip enables Havanna Belle to win first stakes in Astra

Benoit & Associates
Havanna Belle, under Brice Blanc, wins the 1 1/2-mile Astra Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Havanna Belle finally had a clean trip in Sunday’s $80,200 Astra Stakes at Santa Anita. An incident-free race resulted in the first stakes win in Havanna Belle’s 14-race career.

Ridden by Brice Blanc, Havanna Belle was always near the front in the race for fillies and mares. She was third for the first mile, advanced to second in early stretch, and pulled away from eight rivals to win by 2 1/4 lengths over 18-1 Energia Fribby.

Havanna Belle ($22.20) ran 1 1/2 miles on turf on a “good” track in 2:27.03.

“It took her a while to settle,” trainer Phil D’Amato said. “I thought Brice had her in a good spot.”

Energia Fribby, the second-longest shot in the field, finished a nose in front of 10-1 Sweet as a Rose, who lugged to the inside through the final furlong, according to jockey Drayden Van Dyke.

Fresh Feline finished fourth, followed by Gaga A, Generosidade, Nancy From Nairobi, More than Less, and Princess Charm. Gaga A, the winner of the Possibly Perfect Stakes here last June, was the 3-2 favorite. She was near the front to the final furlong before fading to finish 3 1/4 lengths behind Havanna Belle.

An Irish-bred filly by Teofilo, Havanna Belle races for Michael House. She was a maiden race winner in Ireland before arriving in the United States in late 2014. Last year, Havanna Belle had one win in seven starts for House and D’Amato, an optional claimer here last May. In several starts last year, she broke slowly or encountered trouble during the running of the race.

“I’ve been so frustrated with this filly,” D’Amato said. “She’s had so many tough trips.”

The Astra Stakes was D’Amato’s third stakes win of the meeting, which began on Dec. 26. No other trainer has more than one.