Solis wins Megahertz aboard 12-1 Keri Belle

January 19th, 2016

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day feature at Santa Anita had an egalitarian look on paper, and fittingly enough, the $101,750 Megahertz (G3) produced a tight finish among Keri Belle, Stormy Lucy, and Theatre Star. But even more fittingly, Keri Belle showed the content of her character by digging in determinedly to hold on for Hall of Fame rider Alex Solis – the partner of race honoree Megahertz.

A Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss homebred trained by John Shirreffs, Keri Belle was earning her first stakes victory in her second stakes attempt. The daughter of Empire Maker was only 11th in the Athenia (G3) at Belmont Park October 17, but as a lightly raced 6-year-old, she had the scope to prove that all wrong. In a competitive Southern California turf division without a clear leader, and at perhaps her best trip of a mile, the 12-1 Keri Belle found her spot.

As expected, 5-2 favorite Glory once again set the pace. This time, however, she hustled to outfoot Chaulk O Lattey, in an opening quarter of :22.79 and got the half in :46.71. Although Glory slowed it down to 1:11.62 by the six-furlong mark, she would soon pay the price for her early exertions.

It was not a coincidence that the eventual top three were all held up at the rear of the field in the initial stages. The decisive point came when Keri Belle commenced her move sooner than Stormy Lucy or Theatre Star. On the scene when Glory and Chaulk O Lattey began to tread water in midstretch, Keri Belle took over, and tenaciously reached for the wire as Stormy Lucy and Theatre Star drew alongside in the final strides. Keri Belle stopped the teletimer in 1:36.30 and furnished a $27.80 win mutuel.

Stormy Lucy, who had a proverbial mountain to climb at the top of the stretch, produced another whirlwind finish and just missed. This marked her third straight top-drawer effort, after her 65-1 upset of the Matriarch (G1) and a gallant second in the December 27 Robert J. Frankel (G3). She deserves extra credit for giving Keri Belle five pounds here.

Theatre Star also got going a fraction too late in a near-miss third. The Glen Hill Farm runner would have been an apt winner on two counts – Glen Hill patriarch Leonard Lavin was honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit at Saturday night’s bash, the same day her half-sister Taris waltzed home in the La Canada (G2).

Glory faded to seventh, one spot behind early rival Chaulk O Lattey, who reported home sixth. Frankel winner Gender Agenda didn’t factor in ninth.

Keri Belle is yet another example of the patient philosophy of her connections. Unraced at two, and only twice at three, she improved markedly when switching to turf at four. Keri Belle broke her maiden at the expense of Treve’s half-sister, Trophee. Her career starts more than doubled in 2015, when she raced six times as a 5-year-old. Last January, she cleared her entry-level allowance condition over this same mile circuit at Santa Anita, and scored a second-level allowance at Belmont in July. Keri Belle was most recently second at Aqueduct November 26 to Grade 3 veteran Strike Charmer, implying that she could hold her own at this level. Her resume now reads 12-4-2-1, $229,030.

Santa Anita was an appropriate place for her breakthrough. Keri Belle was produced by Belleski, dual winner of the Sen. Ken Maddy (G3) here in 2003-2004.

Photo courtesy of Santa Anita/ Benoit.