Burns Ranch’s homebred Tequila Sangria enjoyed a successful return to racing, as she dominated her rivals to win the $15,000 Flight 109 Stakes by ¾ lengths on Sunday at Los Alamitos.
Making her first start since winning the Grade 1 Charger Bar Handicap on January 7, Tequila Sangria broke sharply and took the lead a few strides after the start. She had a daylight lead at the halfway mark before extending her advantage to 1 ½ lengths prior to going on cruise control the rest of the way to the wire. Ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala for trainer Mike Casselman, Tequila Sangria has won both of her starts this year and will now be pointed to the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap, a race that she won as a 3-year-old filly facing aged mares last year.
“That worked out pretty good,” Casselman said of the Flight 109. “(Tequila Sangria) was a little fresh in the gate. This will help her a lot. She really needed an out because we did not work her that tough. She has been galloping so strong and Jesus Rios Ayala said that she felt stronger that she had ever felt training. She is getting more mature. She backed against the tail gate a little bit. That will take her a little getting used to. Millie Vessels is next, hopefully.”
Flare For Toby is the last horse to post back-to-back victories in the Mildred Vessels back in 2000-2001. The only other mares to have won consecutive runnings of the “Millie” are 1996 AQHA World Champion Dashing Folly (1996-97), Sound Dash (1994-95) and She’s Precious (1975-76).
Tequila Sangria, who ran in last year’s Champion of Champions, won the Charger Bar Handicap by a half-length seven months ago. She spent the rest of winter and spring at Burns Ranch, where she had embryos by Jess Being Valiant, Seperate Interest and Fly Thru The Fire. She came back to Los Alamitos in mid-May to begin preparing for the second half of the year. She had a 220-yard turn and work in :12.40 on June 27 before debuting in the Flight 109.
“She had a great break,” said Rios Ayala, the meet’s leading rider. “That is where she won the race. She really left the gate great and did not stop. I thought she might need a race, but she was great. She was a little nervous in the gate. I think because she had not raced in a while. She showed that she has a big heart.”
The 4-year-old mare, who earned $8,250 for her win in the Flight 109, now has six wins in 10 starts with career earnings of $171,310. In addition to her Grade 1 wins in the Millie and Charger Bar and her stakes win in the Flight 109, Tequila Sangria also dominated the Big Lew Handicap at 350 yards last year.
Ed Allred’s Hot Little Kiddy was impressive runner-up in the Flight 109. The Kiddy Up mare was fourth at the start but was flying late and it a lot closer finish in the final yards. She earned $3,375 to take her career earnings to $60,715. The two mares finished 1-2 over the males in this race, as they were followed across the wire by Badhabit Jess, One Last Chance, Jimbosecret and Corona Jumpim MRL.