Alice Marble Explodes Late to Take $100,000 Fran’s Valentine

Courtesy of Santa Anita Arcadia, CA (May 28, 2022)–Although she was heavily favored, it appeared Alice Marble was in the deep end of the pool a quarter mile from home in Saturday’s $100,000 Fran’s Valentine Stakes but with leading rider Juan Hernandez at the controls, it indeed seems anything is possible these days at Santa Anita, as Alice Marble fairly exploded the last eighth of a mile to win going away by three quarters of a length, providing Hernandez with his fourth stakes win of the day and his fifth overall. Owned and bred by Nick Alexander and trained by Phil D’Amato, Alice Marble got a flat mile on turf in 1:37.67.

Under a snug hold at the rail while third, about 2 ½ lengths off longshot leader Flying to the Line leaving the half mile pole, Alice Marble was shuffled back to fifth around the far turn and had six lengths to make up turning for home, but Hernandez was unflappable, splitting horses while three deep and with an eye-catching turn of foot “Alice” made it look easy late providing Alexander with his second homebred stakes victory on the day.

“That was as close to a heart attack as I have come,” said D’Amato, who leads all trainers through 65 racing days with 14 stakes wins and 48 wins overall. “I was hoping we’d just get second when we fell back. Juan got the job done and I’m just thrilled that he got his fifth of the day for me.”

A winner of the restricted Wishing Well Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside turf course two starts back and a close second down the hill in the Grade II Monrovia Stakes April 9, Alice Marble, who was trying two turns for the first time today, was off as the 1-2 favorite in a field of seven fillies and mares three and up and paid $3.00, $2.40 and $2.20.

“She broke a little slow…and then after that I was behind the speed,” said Hernandez, who rode Alice Marble for the first time today. “There were some guys that were going to the front, so I decided to stay behind them. I was telling Phil (that) on the backside that I had an opportunity to come through and get some position, but I didn’t want to move too soon.

“I decided to stay (at the rail) and wait. I had a rough trip, but I just had to wait a little more. I found the space and I asked here and she exploded, she was really good. It means a lot to me because I want to do good here. I want to thank the owners and trainers for giving me the opportunity to ride these nice horses and I really appreciate it…”

Alice Marble, a lightly raced 5-year-old mare, provided her sire, Grazen with his second win on the day as she collected her second career stakes victory. Out of the More Than Ready mare Unsung Heroine, Alice Marble is now 11-5-2-1 and with the winner’s check of $60,000, she increased her earnings to $321,180.

Ridden patiently by Joe Bravo, Sassyserb kicked nicely late from off the pace to finish a half length better than Flying to the Line. Off at 13-1, she paid $6.40 and $4.60.

Fractions on the race were 23.40, 47.67, 1:12.72 and 1:25.13.