Irish-bred Charm the Giant rallied from eighth with a furlong to run en route to a 1 1/2-length victory under jockey Michael Baze in the $111,500 Wilshire Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) on the grass as Hollywood Park opened its spring/summer meet on Wednesday.
Charm the Giant, conditioned by Ron McAnally and owned by the Hall of Fame trainer's wife Deborah, who also bred her, made it back-to-back stakes victories while covering one mile on the Lakeside Turf Course in 1:34.16.
The 5-year-old mare was the second choice at 7/2 in the field of 10 fillies and mares, returning $9, $5.60 and $4.00. Sohgol, also an Irish-bred, returned $12.40 and $8.80, while the show payoff on Ghurra was $10.40.
Charm the Giant, a winner of six of 13 starts overall, had her work cut out at the head of the stretch.
"I still had confidence, because knowing her, she was on the outside, and she runs a little better on the outside," said McAnally, who saddled 2000 Wilshire winner Tout Charmant. "She's a nice filly. When she's right, she does very well. Last summer, she got a little body sore and got a little cranky … but she's a lovely filly. Debbie has been like a mother to her from the beginning."
Baze had not ridden a stakes winner at Hollywood Park previously.
"She just loves this course," he said. "She relaxed a little bit better than I thought she would. I didn't want to get her too hyped up early. When I asked her she really took off. She broke real well and I just let her get her stride under her."
Charm the Giant, winner of the Hillsboro Handicap in her previous start at Bay Meadows, banked $66,900 Wednesday to boost her earnings to $294,734. The bay mare is out of Olympic Charmer, by Olympio.
Sohgol also closed ground in the stretch under David Flores, but was not a threat to the winner while finishing three parts of a length ahead of 21-1 shot Ghurra, who lacked room on the inside under Victor Espinoza before finishing with interest as well.
"I had a good trip," Flores said. "I had to move a little early, but other than that we just got beat by a better horse. She gave me a great effort and she should get better."
Apprentice jockey Joseph Talamo, making his Hollywood Park debut, won the opener aboard Run For Dessert en route to a hat-trick. He also connected on Fleet Caroline in the fifth and on Natural Phenomenon in the sixth race before finishing fourth aboard favorite Double Trouble in the Wilshire.
"I just love the Cushion Track," he said of Hollywood Park's synthetic surface. "Horses bounce right over it. This is the first time I've ridden on any artificial surface. It's great, almost like the turf."
Talamo, a 17-year-old native of Marrero, La., began riding last July and this year became the first apprentice to lead the Fair Grounds meeting in New Orleans.
Double Trouble was followed by Private Banking, Polyfirst, Singalong, Flip flop, Quemar and Witch Woman.