01/20/2013 8:11PM

Santa Anita: More Chocolate puts herself in position to capture La Canada

Benoit & Associates
More Chocolate, ridden by Garrett Gomez, scores by 1 3/4 lengths in the La Canada for 4-year-old fillies.

ARCADIA, Calif .- More Chocolate was an eager filly in the first turn of Sunday’s $150,250 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita. Her aggressive behavior led jockey Garrett Gomez to change his race strategy, and resulted in More Chocolate winning her main track debut in the Grade 2 race for 4-year-old fillies.

Always near the front after the first quarter-mile, More Chocolate ($12.60) took the lead at the end of the backstretch and pulled away through the final furlong to win her first stakes.

“I wanted to get her to relax, but when I got to the first turn she jumped on the bridle and I let her be,” Gomez said. “I didn’t want to get into a fighting match.

“I was just trying to get along with her.”

More Chocolate ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.59, finishing 1 3/4 lengths in front of 7-5 Book Review, the winner of the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old female sprinters on Dec. 26. Willa B Awesome, the winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks last March, finished third, followed by 6-5 favorite Lady of Fifty, Ubelongtomemissy, and Open Water.

Lady of Fifty beat older fillies and mares in the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park last month.

Gomez said his job was made slightly easier with a slow pace of 24.34 and 48.03 seconds set by Willa B Awesome. On the backstretch, More Chocolate was within a half-length lead of the lead by racing wide.

More Chocolate led by a head on the final turn, and was in front by 1 1/2 lengths with a furlong remaining.

“She was in a high cruise control,” Gomez said. “She’s a work-in-progress.  She’s got a lot of talent. Hopefully, she’ll move forward.”

More Chocolate, by Malibu Moon, races for Michael Talla and trainer John Sadler. In her first seven starts, all on turf, More Chocolate won twice and was third in the Grade 3 Robert Frankel Stakes here on Dec. 30 in her stakes debut.

More Chocolate has won 3 of 8 starts and $182,790.

The La Canada Stakes was the final stakes for the 4-year-old filly division at the winter-spring meeting. More Chocolate could make her next start in the $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on March 16. A longer race is not a concern to her rider.

 “I don’t think she’ll have any problem,” Gomez said.