March 26, 2011
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Saturday, March 26, 2011) – Oaklawn Park’s current leading rider, Cliff Berry, padded his margin over defending champion Terry Thompson with four wins on Saturday, including a front running victory aboard 2-5 favorite Gran Lioness in the $75,000 Prima Donna Stakes. Through the conclusion of Saturday’s card, Berry held a 13-win advantage over Thompson with 45 victories this meet.
“When things get going good, they just snowball,” said Berry of his success at Oaklawn.
In much the same fashion as he rode Chief of Affairs to victory for the same connections of owners Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch and trainer Bret Calhoun last Sunday in the Hot Springs Stakes, Berry sent Gran Lioness to the lead at the break and the pair never looked back. The daughter of Lion Heart, under little pressure from the other five 3-year-old fillies in the field, set speedy fractions of :21 1/5 and :45 3/5 for the first half mile before drawing off to win by 1¼ lengths over Garnet Crystals. The final time was 1:11 for six furlongs over a fast track.
Lady Giacamo was third, followed by Put and Take, Paris by Night and Scarlet Mist. Arienza and Roma Jean were scratched.
“I didn’t know what to expect from her and they didn’t tell me a whole lot, but (trainer) Bret (Calhoun) had her ready,” said Berry. “She broke hard and fast. She’s all about racing. She just pinned her ears and took off.”
The Kentucky-bred filly returned $2.80, $2.10 and $2.10. She has now won four of her eight career starts and has earned $239,823.
Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., second aboard Garnet Crystals:
“The race set up well for my filly. She ran hard and really tried. At the 3/8th pole, I thought we had a good chance, but the winner was just too much.”
Jockey Martin Escobar, third aboard Lady Giacomo:
“My filly didn't break as sharp as I would have liked. But we were no match for the winner.”