02/18/2012 8:01PM

Santa Anita: Ellafitz turns back three challenges to take Santa Maria

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Benoit & Associates
Ellafitz collects her third straight stakes victory in the Santa Maria.

ARCADIA, Calif.- Overcoming challenges on the first turn, backstretch, and final furlong, Ellafitz won her third consecutive stakes in Saturday’s $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita, the most impressive victory of her winning streak.

Ellafitz ($3.60) ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.48, finishing 1 1/4 lengths in front of 19-1 Miss Mittagong and 3-1 Vision in Gold, who finished in a dead heat for second in the field of seven. The margin at the finish was the farthest that Ellafitz got from her rivals during the race.

Miss Mittagong was the last runner to threaten Ellafitz in the Grade 2 Santa Maria for fillies and mares. The longshot Spirit Seeker was within a head of Ellafitz on the first turn, through an opening quarter-mile in 22.77 seconds, but did not take the lead. Great Hot, a two-time stakes winner last year, was within a length of Ellafitz on the backstretch, after a half-mile in 46.27 seconds, but could not hold that position.

Ellafitz led by a length over Great Hot on the turn, a lead narrowed by Miss Mittagong in the stretch. She got within a half-length with a furlong remaining but could not close the gap any further.

“She just kept going,” winning rider Martin Garcia said of Ellafitz. “When I asked her, she just took off. She responded. She wouldn’t let them pass.”

Love Theway You are finished fourth, followed by Spirit Seeker, Great Hot, and Kayce Ace.

Owned by D and E Racing, Ellafitz gave leading trainer Bob Baffert his third win on Saturday. He won maiden races earlier in the day with the 3-year-olds Paynter and Mamma Kimbo.

Ellafitz earned $120,000, improving her career record to 6 wins in 14 starts and earnings of $297,957.

 “She had to earn it,” Baffert said. “They took shots at her, but she fought them off.”

Ellafitz’s current winning streak began in the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park on Dec. 4 and continued in the minor Paseana Handicap here on Jan. 15. She has led throughout all three races.