Morey saddles first graded stakes winner in Coniah

ARCADIA, Calif. -- Coniah won the first graded stakes of her career in Saturday's Grade 3 Las Cienegas Stakes for fillies and mares at Santa Anita, a victory her Hall of Fame jockey sensed was likely early in the turf sprint.

"She let me drive," Desormeaux said. "Before, she would go as fast as she can."

A measured Coniah led throughout the $100,690 Las Cienegas Stakes to prevail by 1 3/4 lengths over Bendable. The win gave trainer William E. Morey a first-career graded stakes win.

"It's good to get the monkey off my back," said the 43-year-old Morey, who has won more than 1,500 races.

"She trained well and looked good going down the hill."

The Las Cienegas was Coniah's first start since a second in the Grade 3 Desert Stormer Stakes for fillies and mares on dirt last June.

Desormeaux rode Coniah twice last year, to second-place finishes in two stakes.

Sent off as the 2-1 second choice in the Las Cienegas, Coniah ($6.40) took the lead at the start and led through a quick pace of 21.78 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 43.89 for a half-mile. Coniah led by three lengths with a furlong to go, and ran about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course in 1:12.17.

"She was stunning today," Desormeaux said. "She was a pro. She never turned a hair."

Bendable, a two-time stakes winner who started on turf for the first time in the Las Cienegas, finished a length in front of 22-1 Princess Princess, the longest shot in a field of seven.

Beau Recall, the 2-1 favorite, finished fourth beaten 3 1/2 lengths. Beau Recall ran in four consecutive Grade 1 races in the second half of 2017, with a nose loss in the Del Mar Oaks her best finish in that span.

Instant Reflex finished fifth, followed by Anita Partner and Proper Discretion.

Coniah races for owners and breeders James and Tammy McKenney. A 5-year-old mare by Harlington, Coniah has won 4 of 20 starts and earned $295,365.

Last spring, Coniah finished second in the Grade 2 Monrovia Stakes on the hillside turf course before the Desert Stormer Stakes.