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Affluent Wins by a Nose

HORSE RACING

January 21, 2002|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Her sire is Affirmed, who won the most famous three-race series of them all. A year after Affirmed's death, Affluent is one victory away from a sweep that is even rarer than winning horse racing's Triple Crown.

In 1978, Affirmed became the 11th--and last--horse to sweep the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. Affluent, winner of Sunday's $150,000 El Encino Stakes, needs a win in the La Canada on Feb. 9 to win Santa Anita's series for 4-year-old fillies, which has been swept only twice before. The only other fillies to win the La Brea, El Encino and La Canada were Taisez Vou in 1978--Affirmed's Triple Crown year--and Mitterand in 1985.

Affluent won the La Brea by 11/2 lengths over Royally Chosen three weeks ago, but her winning margin over the same rival was much closer Sunday. The nose decision was the closest El Encino outcome in 20 years. In a ding-dong battle over the final eighth of a mile, Eddie Delahoussaye was able to shoehorn Affluent through on the rail. Only the courage of the jockey and the athleticism of the horse got the chestnut filly to the wire without bouncing off the fence.

Royally Chosen, in front all the way, had a one-length lead on Affluent at the eighth pole. On the outside, Alex Solis whipped Royally Chosen right-handed and made the inside path as legally uncomfortable as he could for Affluent and Delahoussaye.

"There was just enough room," said Delahoussaye, 50, who won his first of three El Encinos in 1981. "At the eighth pole, Alex shifted over on me and made it pretty tight. At the sixteenth pole, it was still pretty tight. Then in the last three or four jumps it opened up a little bit. I thought I'd gotten the other horse right on the wire, and my eyes are still pretty good."

Starting with the Hollywood Oaks last July, the versatile Affluent has won four of five starts, one of them on grass. Her only loss during this spell was a second to Golden Apples in the Del Mar Oaks.

"I think she's matured," said Delahoussaye, who began riding her midway through last year. "The timing was right. I just got on her at the right time."

Trainer Ron McAnally's filly, bred and owned by Jan Whitham, paid $3.80 as the favorite and earned $90,000. The time was 1:42 3/5.

A 48-1 shot in the La Brea, which was her first graded stakes race, Royally Chosen was the third choice Sunday. She finished five lengths ahead of Sea Reel.

The previous Sunday, McAnally had won the San Gorgonio Handicap with Tout Charmant; Affluent gave him his third stakes win of the meet.

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