02/17/2013 11:05AM

Santa Anita: Great Hot should relish longer distance of Santa Margarita

Benoit & Associates
Jockey Gary Stevens won his third stakes in the past two weekends aboard 9-1 outsider Great Hot in the Santa Maria.

ARCADIA, Calif .- Great Hot ended a 13-race losing streak with a front-running win in Saturday’s $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita.

The win left trainer A.C. Avila eager to try the 5-year-old mare over an even longer distance, in the $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on March 16. His enthusiasm was apparent after he described the way that Great Hot returned to the winner’s circle after the Santa Maria, her first stakes win at 1 1/16 miles.

“She can relax,” he said. “When she came back, it was like she had just galloped.”

Great Hot won two stakes at 3 in 2011 – the Torrey Pines Stakes over a mile at Del Mar and the Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes over seven furlongs at Keeneland. She was winless in 10 starts in 2012, including a ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint here in November. In her first start of 2013, Great Hot was fourth in a field of seven in the minor Paseana Handicap over a mile on Jan. 13.

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens rode Great Hot for the first time in the Santa Maria. Sent off at 9-1 in a field of five, Great Hot led by a length to 1 1/2 lengths on the backstretch and held off a sustained threat from even-money favorite Book Review to win by a half-length.

Avila said the additional of blinkers for Great Hot was a benefit “to give her more focus.”

For Stevens, the Santa Maria was his third stakes win in two weekends.

He swept the two turf stakes on the weekend of Feb. 9-10. Stevens, 49, returned to riding on a full-time basis on Jan. 6 after a retirement of more than seven years.

Midnight Lucky impressive in debut

Midnight Lucky won her debut in a maiden race on Saturday in a manner that suggested the expensive 3-year-old filly will start in stakes in the near future.

Ridden by Rafael Bejarano for Bob Baffert, Midnight Lucky stalked pacesetter Swimmin Insunshine for the first half-mile, took the lead on the turn and pulled away to win by 7 1-4 lengths, finishing 6 1-2 furlongs in 1:15.25.

“This is a freak, man,” Bejarano told Baffert in the winner’s circle.

Midnight Lucky is by Midnight Lute, and was purchased for $230,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga August yearling sale in 2011. She races for Mike Pegram, Paul Weitman, and Karl Watson.