Vale Dori wins Santa Maria

Even a brief pre-race tantrum could not prevent Vale Dori from winning her third consecutive Grade 2 stakes in Saturday's $200,345 Santa Maria Stakes for fillies and mares at Santa Anita.

A few moments before the start, Vale Dori became upset in the gate, unseating jockey Mike Smith. He was quickly back aboard without further incident.

"She got a little excited in the gate today," Smith said. "I'm not really sure what happened in the gate, something spooked her. She just reacted to it and almost went all the way over. It might have hurt us a little bit. She was aggravated for a good eighth of a mile before I talked her out of it. After that, she was well within herself."

Once underway, Vale Dori ($2.60) had an uneventful trip in the race at 1 1/16 miles. She stalked pacesetter Midnight Toast, who set an early pace of 23.66 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 47.35 for a half-mile.

Vale Dori took the lead with less than three furlongs to go and won comfortably by 1 3/4 lengths over Show Stealer.

Vale Dori was timed in 1:43.19.

Autumn Flower was third, followed by Lady Tapit, Sheer Pleasure and Midnight Toast in the field of six.

The first three finishers in the Santa Maria Stakes were the first three finishers in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes here Jan. 17. Vale Dori's string of stakes wins began in the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap at Del Mar on Dec. 3.

Vale Dori, a 5-year-old Argentine-bred mare by Asiatic Boy, races for Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum of Dubai and trainer Bob Baffert. Vale Dori has won 7 of 12 starts and has earned $694,943. She is highly likely to start in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Stakes at 1 1/8 miles for fillies and mares March 18.

The $400,000 Santa Margarita Stakes is the championship race of the winter-spring meeting for fillies and mares.

Vale Dori was a Group 1 winner in Argentina in 2015. She was winless in two starts in Dubai in March 2016 before joining Baffert's stable last summer.