01/25/2014 6:02PM

Santa Anita: Happy homecoming for Desormeaux aboard Ciao Bella Luna

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Benoit & Associates
Ciao Bella Luna (left), under Kent Desormeaux, runs down Marks Mine to win the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint.

ARCADIA, Calif. – It was in Maryland that Kent Desormeaux shot to stardom, but in California where he solidified his route to the Hall of Fame, and it is here where Desormeaux may finally return. He has hinted at it in recent weeks, and showed the locals he has still got the fire in the belly with a victory aboard Ciao Bella Luna in the $126,500 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint for California-bred females on Saturday at Santa Anita.

Ciao Bella Luna ($13) was prominent throughout, pressing the pace of Marks Mine, and those two ran with one another until deep stretch of the downhill turf sprint, at which point Ciao Bella Luna began to edge away, ultimately winning by a half-length.

Tribal Spy loomed menacingly late and was third, just a head behind Marks Mine. Unusual Hottie, the 3-1 favorite, was fourth, and was followed, in order, by Sudden Sunday, Kathleen Rose, This Means War, Journey On, Runfasterelse, Warren’s Flasher, and Heat Du Jour.

Ciao Bella Luna completed the about 6 1/2-furlong course in 1:12.81 to earn her fourth win in 12 lifetime starts. Her biggest victory came in the Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland last April, when trained by Jerry Hollendorfer. Her current trainer, Peter Miller, is the fifth trainer she has had. She is owned by the Rockingham Ranch of Gary Hartunian.

Desormeaux was in town for the weekend, but has said he could return here, where his two sons, from his first marriage, live.

“Another one like that and it’ll be written on the wall,” Desormeaux said of his possible relocation. He is currently based at Gulfstream Park.

This was Desormeaux’s first stakes win in California since the Grade 1 American Oaks in 2009 aboard Gozzip Girl.

Desormeaux said Ciao Bella Luna broke so well he went on with it, in contrast to how he expected the race to unfold.

“That was the opposite of what I expected,” he said. “I thought we’d be back early.”

Ciao Bella Luna, 4, is by Tribal Rule and is out of the Conquistador Cielo mare Shadow of the Moon.

--additional reporting by Steve Andersen