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© Scott Martinez
LOS ALAMITOS, CA—FEBRUARY 13, 2021—Joe Herrick Racing Stables, LLC and Red Silk Stables LLC.'s Lovely Finish scored an emotional maiden victory for her connections in the first race on Saturday at Los Alamitos Race Course three years after the now 6-year-old mare survived the 2017 Lilac Fire while at San Luis Rey Downs.
Ridden by Anthony Locke from post number eight, Lovely Finish won in style, pulling away from her rivals in route to a 3 ˝ length win in the 1,000-yard race.
"I had to keep myself from getting emotional because her and I almost lost our lives together," said Herrick, who trains the now 6-year-old California-bred mare by Marino Marini.
In saving Lovely Finish from the wildfire on December 7, 2017, Herrick was burned on 23 percent of his body. After months of recovery for both trainer and horse, Lovely Finish made her return to the races, running third in a 5 ˝ furlong race during the LA County Fair Meet at Los Alamitos Race Course on September 20, 2018.
ESPN's award-winning magazine show E60 and the San Diego Union -Tribune were on hand to capture that part of Lovely Finish's journey. When she was on the right side of a photo finish to earn her third place in that race, the result felt like a victory Herrick said.
"That was more than a horse race," the trainer said back then.
Now, Lovely Finish's record does indeed include an official victory after having finished third or better in each of her previous seven starts.
"She's ran well every time," Herrick added. "She's never had a bad race. I've taken care of her and never ran her when she was compromised. We've really taken care of this horse. It was an eight-month layoff (since her last start). I've always given my horse time when they need the time and run them when they're perfect. Obviously, she was perfect tonight. It was good for her come out here and get it done. It was special."
Occasionally, Lovely Finish has been a little finicky while waiting in the starting gate. Herrick has responded by spending a lot of time schooling her in the mornings at San Luis Rey Downs.
"We got some training done this morning so that she would mind her manners," Herrick added.
"She can be a tough, tough horse. I wanted to take her to the gate again today and Tony Locke said, 'Joe, we've taken her to the gate 10 times already,'" Herrick added with a laugh. "Sure enough, tonight she didn't want to load in the gate. I told Tony after the race, 'See, we should have taken her to the gate this morning.' She was waiting on the horses to come to her tonight. She was only going to run as hard as she needed to."
Herrick is looking forward to the next chapter with his most special of trainees.
"It was a good tightener for us," he said. "We'll see what we can do with her next."