Customer Base and Stormy Lucy served up a rousing a stretch duel in Sunday's Grade 3, $101,000 Robert J. Frankel Stakes at Santa Anita, with the former just getting the nod to earn her first graded victory.
Glen Hill Farm's Customer Base, whose only prior stakes win came in the 1 1/4-mile Lucie Manet at Hollywood in July, had been performing creditably over shorter, with placings in the one-mile Swingtime and Goldikova. The added ground of the 1 1/8-mile Frankel figured to help her chances, and she was listed as the 3-1 favorite on the morning line. But the Tom Proctor filly drifted up to the 4-1 third choice at post time. Bettors preferred the other Glen Hill/Proctor runner, Gulsary, and sent her off as the 2-1 choice with Hall of Famer Gary Stevens.
After losing Stevens to her stablemate, Customer Base reunited with Hall of Famer Mike Smith, her rider from the Lucie Manet. The daughter of Lemon Drop Kid soon settled into her customary spot well off the pace, trailed only by Gulsary and Playful Humor in the early going.
Meanwhile, Appealing strode to the fore and established splits of :23 2/5, :47 and 1:10 4/5 on the firm turf. The stalking Nickels Wild moved up to engage the pacesetter turning for home, and put her head in front briefly in upper stretch. Stormy Lucy then rallied from midpack to accost Nickels Wild and took over.
By that point, Customer Base was gaining purposefully on the outside, and she drew alongside Stormy Lucy. The duo matched strides to the wire, neither giving an inch. Whenever Customer Base appeared on the verge of getting the upper hand, Stormy Lucy parried the thrust and kept the margin razor-thin. The photo proved that Customer Base prevailed by a nose in a final time of 1:46 2/5.
"I knew the two outside horses would have speed," Smith said, referring to Appealing and Nickels Wild, "so I could work out a good trip from that point unless I got buried, which could have happened. I thought the main horse to follow was Stormy Lucy, or our other horse (Gulsary) who was behind me so I parked in behind Stormy Lucy and didn't move until I had to.
"I don't want to sound cocky or anything but it felt like a Zenyatta-like photo finish where everyone thought it was so close, but yet I was confident. She was just hanging there, just waiting. She knew she had done enough, she was locked on. The only thing I could do from that point was not to mess it up, so I just stayed with her."
Stormy Lucy's rider, Isaias Enriquez, knew that she was giving her all.
"She had a perfect trip," Enriquez said. "I put her in a good spot, she was comfortable. It was a perfect, perfect trip. Down the lane, she took off. She was trying her eyeballs out. I just got beat by a better horse."
Another 2 1/4 lengths back came Gulsary, who kept on to edge Nickels Wild for third and rounded out a solid one-three result for her connections. Moone's My Name, Champagneandcaviar, Becky Lou, Appealing and Playful Humor concluded the order under the wire.
Customer Base, who returned $10 to win, has now bankrolled $322,182 from her 18-5-3-2 line. The winner of her first two starts as a juvenile on Polytrack, she was a wide-trip 11th in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Churchill Downs in her stakes, and turf, debut. Customer Base took time to find her best form at three, but improved back on turf and ended 2012 on a positive note when missing by a scant neck in the Autumn Miss. She developed into a reliable and consistent performer this season as a four-year-old, racing exclusively on turf.
Resuming with a rallying third in the six-furlong Great Lady M. at Hollywood on May 26, Customer Base got up for second in the one-mile Redondo Beach over the same course June 9, and profited from the step up in trip for the July 5 Lucie Manet. She was not suited by the early crawl on the cutback to 1 1/8 miles in the August 11 John C. Mabee, which turned into a sit-and-sprint, and she was outkicked in fourth. Fifth in the 1 1/16-mile Yellow Ribbon in her next attempt at Del Mar September 2, Customer Base fared better at Santa Anita in the fall. She came up a half-length short in the October 5 Swingtime, and a game third in the November 3 Goldikova, before her graded breakthrough on Sunday.
"She's run good all year," Proctor summed up. "This was probably the right spot. You've got to give the filly that ran second (credit). That was the horse I was scared of. Stormy Lucy's a nice filly. I thought maybe Gary (Stevens on Gulsary) was kind of watching Customer Base a little bit and tried not to get in the way. But they both ran good."
Proctor was delighted to win this race in honor of the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, especially on the heels of winning Saturday's Eddie Logan Stakes, named after Santa Anita's legendary shoe shine attendant, with Glen Hill Farm's Enterprising.
"I tell you what -- it's a pleasure winning this race (and) seeing Humberto (Ascanio, Frankel's longtime assistant who presented the winning trophy).
"You can say I enjoyed it. I kind of had it made yesterday and today with Eddie Logan and then this race. I always thought the most of Bobby Frankel.
"We started out, we didn't like each other too much, then I got where I really thought a lot of him. He about put me out of the business, claiming everything I had my first year training, 'cause I was running them where they could win."
Ascanio, who suffered a stroke almost exactly two years ago to the day, is still on the mend.
"I'm doing all right," Ascanio said. "My family and my kids are keeping me alive. I miss seeing you all here. I miss everyone here on the backside. I talk to a lot of people still. I don't come out a lot, but I'm still watching. I'm not dead yet, I'm still kickin'!"
Customer Base was bred by Edward Seltzer and Beverly Anderson in Kentucky and sold for $170,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling. She is out of the winning Tale of the Cat mare Little Cat Feet, making her a half-sister to stakes victress Hyperlink.
Little Cat Feet is herself a half-sister to Arch Rebel, a Group 2-placed multiple stakes hero on the Flat and a stakes winner over the hurdles in Ireland. They are also half-siblings to stakes scorer and Turf Paradise record-setter On My Dime and to multiple stakes-placed Livin for Love, the dam of stakes winner Livinonlovanadime.
Customer Base's third dam is Grade 1 victress Pattern Step, whose descendants include 2011 Arkansas Derby star Archarcharch, multiple Group 3 winner and classic-placed Arch Swing and current Killavullan hero Craftsman, fifth in his U.S. debut in Saturday's Eddie Logan.