A determined Miss Loren became a North American grade I winner Sunday at Santa Anita, nipping Good Student in the $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap (gr. I) in a stirring stretch drive.
The two Argentine-bred mares were neck-and-neck for the final furlong with Miss Loren, ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr. on the outside, getting up by a nose. They had to wait out a stewards' inquiry when third-place finisher Hollywood Story, advancing along the inside with Patrick Valenzuela aboard, had to take up when crowded in deep stretch.
Miss Loren completed the 1 1/16-mile event for older fillies and mares in 1:42 2/5 on a track rated wet fast.
A 7-year-old daughter of Numerous, Miss Loren has enjoyed considerable success in Southern California stakes competition since she was transferred to trainer Luis Seglin from her native country by Miami owner Maria Alejandra Bago's Liers Corporation. Miss Loren won the Clement L. Hirsch (gr. II) at Del Mar in August and hasn't been worse than fourth in eight graded stakes attempts in the U.S. Miss Loren won the non-graded Pasaena Handicap in her last start Jan. 14 at Santa Anita.
Seglin also won his first grade I in the U.S.
"I hope this isn't the last," he said, noting he plans next to send Miss Loren after the $300,000 Santa Margarita (gr. I) at 1 1/8 miles on March 12. "I hope she comes out OK so we can go there."
Miss Loren stalked on the inside while racing in mid-pack into the final turn as 30-1 shot Born to Dance carved a quick pace – :23, :46 2/5 and 1:10 2/5. Good Student, who rated well and gradually cut into Born to Dance's advantage with Tyler Baze aboard, took over from there as Miss Loren rallied on the outside for Valdivia and linked up for a sizzling stretch battle. Hollywood Story, the slight 3-1 favorite in the field of eight, was also closing stoutly from behind but lost all chance when Valenzuela was forced to steady along the rail as the leaders drifted inward. Hollywood Story switched to the outside to get third, two lengths behind the winner.
Stewards ruled that the trouble did not alter Hollywood Story's finishing position.
Two other fancied runners, 3-1 Star Parade, the defending Santa Maria champion, and 7-2 Musical Chimes, a grade I winner on grass making her first start on the main track, were not involved in the end. Both carried the high impost of 118, one pound more than the winner.
Star Parade, breaking from the far outside post, was out-sprinted for the lead and never appeared comfortable. She chased the front-runners to the far turn in her first start in more than six months and faded to finish last. Musical Chimes failed to fire after stalking alongside Miss Loren into the homestretch.
"We hit the turn and she just started running up to the leader and stopped Musical Chimes from going anywhere," Valdivia said of Miss Loren.
He said he thought the race was his close to home.
"I got a little bit cocky and hand-rode her the last 10 yards or so," Valdivia said. "A lot of people noticed after I crossed the wire I kind of shook my whip, but then Tyler's pulling up and he's patting his filly on the shoulder and he's saying 'man, it was close' and I thought, 'don't tell me he came up and got me.'"
Personal Legend finished another length behind in fourth, followed by Musical Chimes, Festival, Born to Dance, and Star Parade. Stormica and Petionville Indeed scratched.
Miss Loren, a group I winner in Argentina, now sports a 3-1-2 mark in nine U.S. starts and has earned nearly $490,000. Overall, she has won 13 of 45 and amassed a bankroll of $616,260.
The fifth choice in the field, she paid $12.40, $7 and $4.40. Good Student, who was coming off a win in the Tuzla Handicap on the grass Jan. 27, returned $12 and $6, completing a $153.20 exacta. Hollywood Story's show was $3.40.