11/29/2014 5:14PM

West Coast Belle wins Golden Rod to stay perfect

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
West Coast Belle, with Shaun Bridgmohan aboard, takes the Golden Rod Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – West Coast Belle stayed unbeaten in three career starts and got a head start on returning here for the Kentucky Oaks with a 1 1/4-length triumph Saturday in the 71st running of the Grade 2, $230,400 Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Continuing a huge fall meet for owners Gary and Mary West and trainer Wayne Catalano, West Coast Belle rallied from midpack to take command in upper stretch before turning back No Fault of Mine, who overcame a poor start to be a terrific second in a field of 12 2-year-old fillies.

West Coast Belle, a gray filly by the red-hot sire Tapit, returned $5.20 as the favorite after finishing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:45.52 over a fast track.

“I always had her in my hand,” said winning jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. “I just let her take me where she wanted, like Wayne said to. Down the lane, I had plenty of horse.”

No Fault of Mine, a Chicago invader making just her second career start, finished resolutely under Ricardo Santana Jr. to finish 6 1/4 lengths clear of Heart’s Song, who had a half-length on I’m a Chatterbox for third. Cristina’s Journey, who battled for the lead for much of the way as the 3-1 second choice, faded to seventh.

West Coast Belle earned 10 points toward the 101st Oaks next May. Catalano said she most likely will have her prep races at Fair Grounds, a highly successful path to the Oaks in recent years.

West Coast Belle won her career debut at Monmouth Park in September, then was overlooked at 11-1 in winning the ungraded Rags to Riches on Oct. 26, opening day of the Churchill fall meet.

Entering Sunday, the final day of this 24-day meet, the Wests and Catalano were in contention for top honors in their respective categories. The Golden Rod was the 12th win of the meet for the Wests and the 13th for Catalano.

The $2 exacta (8-2) paid $26.40, the $1 trifecta (8-2-6) returned $104.90, and the 10-cent superfecta (8-2-6-3) was worth $83.39.