01/28/2012 4:44PM

Santa Anita: Willa B Awesome pulls off upset in Santa Ysabel

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Benoit & Associates
Willa B Awesome, with Martin Pedroza in the saddle, wins the Santa Ysabel.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The scratches of expected pacesetters Coup de Coeur and Eden's Moon led trainer Walther Solis to change his strategy for Willa B Awesome in Saturday's $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita.

"I was thinking of laying third or fourth," Solis said. But he said that when he saw the scratches, he told jockey Martin Pedroza, "Let's go to the lead."

The strategy led to a milestone win for Willa B Awesome, her first graded stakes win. Willa B Awesome led throughout and won by 3 1/2 lengths over Killer Graces, the winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes on Dec. 10. Lady of Shamrock finished third in the field of five, followed by even-money favorite Charm the Maker and Batalha.

The longest shot in a field of five, Willa Be Awesome ($24.20) ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.73 in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes. She led by 2 1/2 lengths on the turn and in early stretch and was not threatened in the stretch.

"It's nice to see her breakthrough," Solis said. "We knew she wanted to go long. We kept her fresh for this race."

Owned by the partnership of Phil Daniels, Pat London, John Winter, and breeder Terry Lovingier, Willa B Awesome has had a busy career. She has won 3 of 10 starts and $233,896. A  California-bred filly by Awesome Gambler, she gave the stallion his first graded stakes winner in the Santa Ysabel.

Willa B Awesome won the Barretts Debutante at Fairplex Park last September, and has placed in five other stakes in her career.

Eden's Moon, the winner of a maiden race by 11 1/2 lengths on Jan. 8, was scratched on Saturday morning because of illness, trainer Bob Baffert said. Coup de Coeur, a stakes winner at the Big Fresno Fair in October, was scratched on Friday.