01/29/2013 3:17PM

Golden Gate notes: Northern California fillies dominate Santa Anita stakes

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Benoit & Associates
The Ed Moger Jr.-trained Qiaona wins the California Breeders Champion Stakes under Garrett Gomez.

There was a little turnabout in Saturday’s $300,000 California Breeders Champion Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita.

Fillies with Northern California roots finished one-two-three, with the Ed Moger Jr.-trained Qiaona defeating the Jeff Bonde-trained Unusual Way by a half-length and the Steve Specht-trained trained Marks Mine another length back in third for a $1,764 trifecta. Northern California training king Jerry Hollendorfer’s favored Doinghardtimeagain was fourth for a Northern California training superfecta.

The track was listed as wet-fast but was drying out as the day went on, which may have worked against Marks Mine and Unusual Way. Qiaona was the lone filly in the field of 11 to wear mud caulks, and she surged to the lead nearing the wire uner Garrett Gomez after having only one rival beaten through the first six furlongs of the one-mile race.

“Gomez gave one of his patented rides,” said Moger.

Beyond the $165,000 first-place prize, what made the victory special for Moger was that it came for longtime clients Curt and Lila Lanning, who have been two of the most resilient owners for decades in Northern California.

Qiaona was a $4,500 Barretts bargain purchase as a yearling in October 2011.

“They usually buy 10 to 12 a year,” said Moger of the Lannings.

Qiaona made her debut for a $25,000 tag at Pleasanton last summer, running third. Moger then shipped her to Southern California where she also ran for a tag before finishing second in the Barretts Debutante. She graduated on the turf at Hollywood Park on Dec. 6 in her start before the California Breeders Champion Stakes.

“We thought she was good or we wouldn’t have sent her down south,” said Moger.

Qiaona went off at 23-1, and Moger admitted he was taking a bit of a shot entering the improving filly for the $300,000 purse.

“We figured she wasn’t that far off the top ones going in and would have a shot,” he said.

Because she has won on turf, Moger said that the April 7 Golden Poppy and the June 1 Campanile, both California-bred stakes on the turf at Golden Gate Fields, could be in Qiaona’s future plans.

Bonde was proud of the effort by Unusual Way, who won the Wine Country Debutante at Santa Rosa last summer as well as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint Preview at Santa Anita in the fall.

“She’s been a horse that wants to be on the lead,” he said, but she was bothered at the break and going into the first turn.

Bonde believes there are big things ahead for the Unusual Heat filly.

“She’s been a real fun horse, and we’ve yet to run her on the turf,” he said.

Specht was pleased with the way Marks Mine ran under Abel Cedillo.

“She ran well and the jockey did what I wanted him to do,” he said. “She just got run down.”

Specht’s other nice 3-year-old filly My Lil Shamrock had an easy half-mile work Sunday and will be cranked up a bit in either a five- or six-furlong work this weekend in preparation for the Feb. 9 California Oaks.

New home for China Prince

Northern California-based trainer Daniel Franko watched China Prince finish sixth in the male division of the California Breeders Champion Stakes. Prior to the race, he sold the gelding to West Point Thoroughbreds and trainer Craig Dollase.

The race was the first for China Prince since he won a Golden Gate maiden race on Dec. 9 and his first time on an off track.

“I was disappointed because I bet on him, but he had a lot of things against him going into the race,” said Franko.

Franko said he was sorry to see China Prince leave his barn.

“I don’t like to travel,” said Franko, “and that horse deserves to run down south.”

TV giveaway on Saturday

Golden Gate Fields for years has given away television sets after each race on Super Bowl Sunday, but this year the track has moved the giveaway up to Saturday so that fans can set up the televisions before the San Francisco 49ers meet the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl.

Post time Sunday is 11:15 a.m. with the final race scheduled for 2:45 p.m.