01/11/2016 1:28PM

Sandiva gets it done in Marshua's River

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Kenny Martin/Coglianese Photos
Sandiva, ridden by Javier Castellano, wins the Marshua's River on Saturday as the even-money favorite.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The race flow may not have gone quite as trainer Todd Pletcher had expected, but the result was exactly what he’d hoped for - a 1 1/2-length victory by even-money Sandiva over the 16-1 A Little Bit Sassy in Saturday’s Grade 3 Marshua’s River at Gulfstream Park.

With Javier Castellano aboard, Sandiva set a contested pace from the rail, posting early splits of 23.95 and 48.19 over the firm turf course. She disposed of Divine Aida upon settling into the stretch and was never seriously threatened while drifting a bit through the late stages. A Little Bit Sassy fanned five wide while advancing on the final bend and finished a length in front of third-place Tuttipaesi.

Sandiva, a 5-year-old daughter of Footstepsinthesand, is trained by Pletcher for Al Shaqab Racing. The Marshua’s River was her second graded stakes win since shipping to the U.S. during the summer of 2014. She also won the Grade 3 Suwannee River here last winter.

Sandiva completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.04 and paid $4.

“It wasn’t necessarily the plan,” said Pletcher when asked if he expected Sandiva to be on the lead. “But we did want to come out and secure our position and take advantage of an inside post. I told Javier not to be afraid if he landed there. We thought the most likely scenario would be stalking those other two horses that turned out were stalking us. She was very comfortable the whole way.”

Pletcher said he didn’t feel Sandiva ran a bad race in her previous start when third in the Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap Nov. 21 at Gulfstream Park West. That was her first start in 5 1/2 months.

“We didn’t feel like it was her 'A' race,” said Pletcher. “There was a little confusion. We had her saddled, they sent out the wrong saddle, and we had to re-saddle her. And off the layoff and shipping to a place she’d never been before, she got a little upset. That compromised her a little bit that day. We switched things up a bit, shipped her here Wednesday, she paddock schooled Wednesday and Thursday, and we thought it paid off in the way she behaved. She was perfect in the paddock, and she ran to her capabilities today.”