02/19/2017 8:43PM

Cuddle Alert delivers first stakes win for trainer Saldana in Spring Fever

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Benoit & Associates
Cuddle Alert, the only horse trained by Melissa Saldana, gets a pat from Saldana after rider Agapito Delgadillo returns to the winner's circle.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Last July, Cuddle Alert finished seventh in a $10,000 claimer at Del Mar, the day she was acquired by trainer Melissa Saldana.

Sunday at Santa Anita, in her seventh start since being claimed, Cuddle Alert won her first stakes in the $100,000 Spring Fever Handicap for California-bred fillies and mares. The win was a milestone for 28-year-old Saldana, her first stakes win with the only horse she trains. Saldana is primarily an assistant to trainer Mark Glatt at Los Alamitos.

“I can’t put it into words,” Saldana said. “This is special.”

Cuddle Alert ($18.40) was ridden by Agapito Delgadillo, who escaped injury in a spill in Sunday’s second race. Delgadillo said after the Spring Fever that his collarbone was sore from the accident, but that he did not intend to give up his mounts for the day.

Cuddle Alert was part of a field of five in the Spring Fever at six furlongs. Late ‘n Left, the winner of a $32,000 claimer on Feb. 2, led early, with Cuddle Alert about two lengths behind for the first five furlongs.

“She had to race so much closer to the pace than she usually does,” Saldana said.

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Cuddle Alert trailed by 1 1/2 lengths with a furlong remaining and fought past Late ‘n Left in the final furlong to win by a head.

 “I waited for the stretch,” Delgadillo said.

Cuddle Alert was timed in 1:09.86.

Sunday Rules, the 2-5 favorite, finished third in her first start since July. A multiple stakes winner, Sunday Rules failed to reach the front in the stretch and was beaten 1 3/4 lengths. Smoove It was fourth, followed by Allsquare. Kiss At Midnight was scratched early Sunday afternoon.

Cuddle Alert, who races for owners Leopoldo Urbina and Reed Saldana, has won 6 of 21 starts and earned $229,000. A 6-year-old, Cuddle Alert is by Bedford Falls, and was the California-based stallion’s first stakes winner.

Since being claimed, Cuddle Alert has won 3 of 7 starts. She won an optional claimer against California-breds here in October and an optional claimer against open company on Jan. 6. On Jan. 28, Cuddle Alert was fourth in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint for statebred fillies and mares.