01/28/2017 4:58PM

Enola Gray scores as heavy favorite in Sunshine Millions Filly-Mare Turf Sprint

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Benoit & Associates
Tyler Baze guides Enola Gray to a 3 1/4-length victory in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Enola Gray loves a fight.

The speedy Desert Steel challenged Enola Gray early in Saturday’s $151,035 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint at Santa Anita, and paid for the duel in deep stretch when Enola Gray pulled away to win the fourth stakes of her career in her eighth start.

“When she goes head-and-head, she thrives on that,” trainer Phil D’Amato said.

Ridden by Tyler Baze, Enola Gray ($3.20) won the Filly and Mare Turf Sprint for California-breds by 3 1/4 lengths, running about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course in 1:12.10. The Filly and Mare Turf Sprint was the first grass race at Santa Anita since Jan. 16, a gap caused by excessive rain and one cancelled racing day.

Desert Steel set early fractions of 21.55 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 43.04 for a half-mile, leading by a head. Enola Gray took the lead when the field moved from the hillside turf course to the oval and led by a length with a furlong to go.

Smoove It, who won the Irish O’Brien Stakes for California-bred female turf sprinters last March, closed from fourth to finish second, a head in front of Desert Steel.

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Cuddle Alert finished fourth, followed by Tale of Papa Nick, How Unusual, All That Heat, and Luce De.

Enola Gray races for owner and breeder Nick Alexander. A 4-year-old filly by Grazen, Enola Gray has won 5 of 8 starts and earned $449,100. The Filly and Mare Turf Sprint was her first win since the California Distaff Handicap for statebred females on the hillside turf course last October.

She was second in the Betty Grable Stakes for California-bred females at Del Mar in November as the 1-10 favorite and third in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes at seven furlongs on Dec. 26.

D’Amato said Enola Gray is likely to start in longer races on the turf in coming months, and may have a brief vacation at Alexander’s farm in Santa Ynez, Calif., in early February.

“I think two-turn distances on turf are going to be most likely for her,” D’Amato said. “Tyler said he had a hard time pulling her up.”