05/07/2016 9:14PM

Stays in Vegas returns with sharp performance in Senorita

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Benoit & Associates
Mr. Opportunist, with Santiago Gonzalez aboard, wins his stakes debut in the off-the-turf Desert Code Stakes.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Stays in Vegas remained in trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s stable through the winter and early spring by design. She returned to action in Saturday’s $100,690 Senorita Stakes on turf at Santa Anita at an ideal time.

The late spring and summer stakes schedule for 3-year-old fillies in Southern California emphasizes turf racing, a specialty for Stays in Vegas.

Saturday, Stays in Vegas rallied three-wide on the turn to win the most prestigious race of her career in the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes. The victory marked a comeback after a busy 2-year-old campaign in which she won 4 of 6 starts.

“We had her ready and she’s ready to start her campaign,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said.

Ridden by Alex Solis, Stays in Vegas ($7.20) finished a head in front of 8-5 favorite Be Mine, a horse Hollendorfer considered the danger in a field of seven. Stays in Vegas fought through the stretch with Be Mine after Solis brought his mount from a stalking position to reach contention on the turn.

“It’s how Alex and I planned it,” Hollendorfer said. “He moved a little early. He thought that filly might be getting away from him.”

Stays in Vegas ran a mile in 1:37.98. Be Mine, who made her stakes debut in the Senorita, finished a half-length in front of Sheeza Milky Way. Decked Out, who won the Grade 3 Providencia Stakes on turf on April 9, finished fourth, followed by Mirage, Fourth Watch, and Compel.

Fourth Watch set the pace, but was passed on the turn by Be Mine, who was quickly challenged by Stays in Vegas.

Stays in Vegas, by City Zip, races for Jim Rome, KMN Racing, and the LNJ Foxwoods partnership. At 2, Stays in Vegas won consecutive starts on turf in the Surfer Girl Stakes here in October and the Pike Place Dancer Stakes at Golden Gate Fields in November. She finished second to Street Fancy in the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos in December in her final start before being given a rest.

Hollendorfer said on Saturday that Stays in Vegas needed a break following her 2-year-old season. She resumed workouts in early March.

Stays in Vegas has won 5 of 7 starts and earned $295,600. Hollendorfer said Stays in Vegas is a candidate for the $200,000 Honeymoon Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles here on June 19.

The Honeymoon is the final turf stakes of the spring-summer meeting. The following day, a 90-day project will begin to replace the course in advance of the track’s autumn meeting, which begins in late September and includes the Breeders’ Cup races on Nov. 4-5.

Mr. Opportunist takes Desert Code

Earlier on the program, Mr. Opportunist won his stakes debut in the $75,000 Desert Code Stakes for 3-year-olds.

The race was originally scheduled for the hillside turf course, but was moved to dirt because of rain on Friday. The field was reduced from five runners to three because of the surface switch, losing Smokey Image, the California-bred champion 2-year-old male of 2015, and Tristan’s Trilogy.

Mr. Opportunist ($4.80) led throughout the Desert Code, running 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.30 under jockey Santiago Gonzalez. Mr. Opportunist finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of 2-1 Eric the Trojan, was 1 3/4 lengths in front of even-money Boldly True.

Mr. Opportunist, a colt by Tale of the Cat, has won 2 of 4 starts for Pete and Kosta Hronis and trainer John Sadler.