05/27/2017 7:57PM

Illuminant shows Monrovia Stakes was right choice

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Benoit & Associates
Illuminant takes his third stakes victory by winning the Monrovia Stakes on Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The lesser of two stakes options produced the greater result for Illuminant at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Instead of the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes, a race she won in 2016, Illuminant ran in the Grade 2 Monrovia Stakes for fillies and mares on the hillside turf course. Illuminant was not even favored in the $201,035 Monrovia, but ran an outstanding race to record her second stakes win of the year.

Illuminant ($5.20) closed on the rail in the stretch to win by a half-length over 25-1 Coniah. Ridden by Flavien Prat, Illuminant followed a quick pace before taking the lead in the final furlong. Illuminant was timed in 1:12.13 for about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course.

“It was a dream trip,” Prat said.

Watch This Cat, Paquita Coqueta, Enola Gray and Swift Lady contributed to a quick pace of 21.29 seconds for the opening quarter-mile. Watch This Cat was still in front after a half-mile in 43.04. Prat had Illuminant in seventh in the field of eight before launching a rally.

“She’s not fast enough to follow that kind of pace,” he said. “It opened up on the rail.”

Illuminant was third with a furlong remaining.

“When I saw her drastically improve her position to move up into third, I thought she’d take care of the rest,” trainer Michael McCarthy said.

Coniah finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of 13-1 Anita Partner. Juno was fourth, followed by Enola Gray, Watch This Cat, Paquita Coqueta, and Swift Lady.

Enola Gray was the 6-5 favorite.

Illuminant races for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Head of Plains Partners, and SF Bloodstock. A 5-year-old mare by Quality Road, Illuminant has won 6 of 14 starts and earned $536,243.

Earlier this year, Illuminant won the Wishing Well Stakes on the hillside turf course March 10 and was seventh in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes at 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland on April 15 after leading in the stretch.

In the last week, the partners and McCarthy finalized plans to start Illuminant in the Monrovia instead of the Gamely. The decision resulted in Illuminant’s third stakes win.