02/16/2013 7:00PM

Santa Anita: Great Hot gets down to business and upsets Santa Maria

Benoit & Associates
Gary Stevens manages to get Great Hot (right) to the wire a half-length in front of favored Book Review in the Santa Maria on Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Great Hot is capable of occasional quirky behavior and game performances. Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens learned of both in Saturday’s $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita.

After Great Hot was what Stevens called “playful” in the post parade, she was all business in the Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes for fillies and mares, the first time that Stevens has ridden the mare. Great Hot led throughout the Santa Maria, winning by a half-length over 11-10 favorite Book Review.

Great Hot ($20.80) ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.08. She led by 1 1/2 lengths on the turn when Stevens thought the filly had the race in control.

“At the three-eighths pole, I let her out a notch,” Stevens said. “It was enough to get their attention. In the stretch, she had enough to hold that filly off.”

Book Review, who won the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters in December, finished 3 3/4 lengths in front of Lady of Fifty, who was followed by Snow Fall and Private Affair in the small field. Going for a Spin was scratched on Saturday morning.

During the post parade, Stevens noticed that Great Hot “checked herself three or four times."

"I think she was testing me out,” he said.

In the stretch, her stride shortened briefly in the final furlong when, Stevens said, she was distracted by hoofmarks from the starting area.

“She took a stutter step,” he said.

That did not affect the outcome. A 5-year-old Brazilian-bred by Orientate, Great Hot has won three stakes, including the Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland in 2011. She had lost 13 starts leading to the Santa Maria Stakes.

Great Hot gave the 49-year-old Stevens his third stakes win in eight days. Stevens, who returned to riding on a full-time basis after a seven-year retirement last month, won two turf stakes last weekend.

Owned by Luiz Fernando Dannemann, who races as Coudelaria Jessica, and trained by A.C. Avila, Great Hot has won 5 of 21 starts and $537,927.

Avila said the $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on March 16 is the next goal for Great Hot.