01/30/2016 7:12PM

Velvet Mesquite ends long drought in Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint

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Benoit & Associates
Velvet Mesquite, with Kent Desormeaux aboard, wins for the first time since October 2014.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Velvet Mesquite may be nearing the end of her career, but she’s still got plenty of life in those 6-year-old legs, as she showed on Saturday at Santa Anita by capturing the  $151,500 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint, her sixth lifetime win on the downhill course.

 Velvet Mesquite had not won a race since October 2014, meaning after winning five of her first nine starts, she had gone nine straight without winning. On Saturday, though, she went to the gate perfectly, according to jockey Kent Desormeaux, and then sat a perfect trip behind two dueling leaders.

 She kicked clear late to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Qiaona, who got up in the last strides to beat Heavens Stairway by a neck for second. Chati’s On Top was fourth and was followed, in order, by Smoove It, Nite Delite, Ashley’s Sassy, Singing Kitty, Jenna’s Faith, Princess Bertrando, and Light One.

 Velvet Mesquite ($7.80), the favorite, completed 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course in 1:13.14.

 Velvet Mesquite, a daughter of In Excess, was bred and is owned by John Harris. Blake Heap, who trains her, said he is hoping Velvet Mesquite continues to race, but said Harris has said he may retire her at some point this spring to be bred.

 The win on Saturday was satisfying for Heap, who admitted he was frustrated by a series of races in which Velvet Mesquite ran well, but not quite well enough.

 “I knew she could do it. She just had little things that would set her back,” Heap said.

 Desormeaux, who had finished second in a pair of turf sprints with Velvet Mesquite last year – including one at Santa Anita – said Velvet Mesquite went to the gate “without turning a hair.”

 “She just strutted her stuff today,” Desormeaux said.

The win was the sixth in 19 starts for Velvet Mesquite. She has placed in graded stakes, but has yet to win one. That’s what Heap said he would like to accomplish before she heads to the breeding shed.