07/01/2017 7:29PM

Enola Gray makes Wilshire her first graded-stakes victory

Benoit & Associates
Enola Gray, the even-money favorite, won the Wilshire by two lengths Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Enola Gray looked vulnerable as she sped alone in front in Saturday’s Grade 3 Wilshire Stakes on turf at Santa Anita – until she turned for home with a two-length lead.

“She was running fast, but she was comfortable,” jockey Flavien Prat said.

Enola Gray sustained her advantage through the one-mile distance, winning by two lengths as the even-money favorite. The $100,345 Wilshire Stakes for fillies and mares was Enola Gray’s sixth career stakes win, and first in a graded race.

At times during the Wilshire, Enola Gray appeared as if she would be caught. She ran the opening quarter-mile in 22.36 seconds and the first half-mile in 44.72, leading by five lengths at that stage. Enola Gray cleared six furlongs in 1:08.73, meaning she ran the third quarter in 24.01 seconds, a breather of sorts.

“When I got into the first turn, she picked up the bit,” Prat said. “She dropped it on the backstretch.”

None of the chasing pack of five could produce a challenge in the stretch. Enola Gray finished in 1:33.03.

Madame Stripes, a 7-1 shot who was second in a Group 1 in Argentina in 2015, closed from third to finish second, 3 1/2 lengths in front of 4-1 Juno, the winner of two Group 1 races in Brazil in 2015.

Sheeza Milky Way was fourth, followed by Prize Exhibit and Place des Vosges.

Prat rode Enola Gray for the first time in the Wilshire, replacing Tyler Baze, who rode at Monmouth Park on Saturday. Prat, the leading rider at the current spring-summer meeting, had a positive first impression of Enola Gray.

“She’s naturally fast,” Prat said.  “She’s just talented. She might be better at a mile. You don’t have to rush her.”

A 4-year-old California-bred filly by Grazen, Enola Gray has won 7 of 11 starts and earned $573,100 for owner and breeder Nick Alexander and trainer Phil D’Amato. Enola Gray’s first five stakes wins were against California-breds, ranging in distances from about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course to 1 1/16 miles on dirt.

Earlier this year, Enola Gray won two stakes on the hillside turf course: the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint in January and the Irish O’Brien Stakes in March.

Enola Gray started in two graded stakes earlier in her career, finishing third in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes at seven furlongs on dirt last December and fifth in the Grade 2 Monrovia Stakes on the hillside turf course on May 27.

In the Monrovia, Enola Gray set a torrid pace and faded from contention.

She was impossible to catch in a longer graded stakes on Saturday.