Multiple stakes-winning Tout Charmant closed from out of the clouds to dead heat with a tenacious Surya in the $150,000 Dahlia Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park Saturday.
The winners covered the 1 1/16-mile event for fillies and mares on a soft turf in 1:44.55.
Surya and third-place finisher Honestly Darling, a neck behind the top two, helped trainer Bobby Frankel move $78,000 closer to the all-time purse earnings mark. He now trails D. Wayne Lukas' 1988 record of $17,842,358 by $282,930. Highweight Tates Creek, also from the Frankel barn, was scratched Saturday morning.
Honestly Darling, with David Flores riding, set a slow early pace of :25.40 and :50.31 for the half-mile. Favored Surya, sent off at 3-2 with Patrick Valenzuela aboard, made a powerful move into the turn and engaged her stablemate in a neck-and-neck drive down the lane. As Surya edged ahead of a stubborn Honestly Darling, Tout Charmant, with Alex Solis in the irons, closed in a final desperate rush to get a share of the victory.
Trained by Ron McAnally, the 6-year-old Tout Charmant, a daughter of Slewvescent who had been retired by owner Stonerside Stable to breed in March, had but one horse beaten when she reached the stretch while at least seven lengths behind.
"I thought I won it," Valenzuela said. "I actually thought I won it by a head. I just saw Alex out of the corner of my eye on the outside, but I still thought I won it by a head. She still ran a great race. She was a little keen to go on today. I just sat there as long as I could. I asked her at the three-sixteenths pole and she kicked on. But the yielding turf course really got to her today. I think if it was a faster turf course, she would have sped away and they never would have caught her, but it was a very yielding turf course."
Solis also thought he reached the wire first.
"Where did I come from? Nowhere. I was hiding," Solis said. "I swung her out at the quarter-pole, started working on her, and she took off. I thought I won it outright, but I was so far out, I'm not complaining. We still won anyway."
A multiple graded stakes winner who captured the 2000 Matriarch (gr. IT), Tout Charmant picked up her ninth career victory in 29 starts. The $60,000 top share Saturday makes her career bankroll $1,781,879. She was making her second start since returning to training after an unsuccesful breeding to Storm Cat. She finished seventh in the Las Palmas at Santa Anita Nov. 3.
"I told Alex in the paddock to take Tout Charmant back no matter how slow the pace is," McAnally said. "The last time he had her in front until the head of the stretch and she died.
"Tout Charmant's people (Stonerside Stable) tried to breed her earlier this year, but she didn't take and was put back in training. She definitely needed that last race," he said. "I talked to John Adger (Stonerside racing manager) this morning, and he said we didn't have to run her, that we could wait until the San Gorgonio (Handicap) next month at Santa Anita. After the San Gorgonio, they may try to breed her again."
Surya ia a 4-year-old Kentucky daughter of Unbridled bred and owned by Flaxman Holdings Ltd. She was making her first start since a third-place finish in the WinStar Galaxy (gr. II) at Keeneland Oct. 4. The bay filly won for the fourth time in six starts in 2002 while improving to three-for-three lifetime on the Hollywood Park turf. Overall, she has five career victories in 10 starts with earnings of $400,971.
Tout Charmant paid $3.80, $3.80 and $3.60. Surya returned $2.60, $3 and $2.60. Honestly Darling paid $5.20. Alozaina, another half-length behind with Victor Espinoza, was a troubled fourth in the field of nine.