An anticipated speed duel between Noches De Rosa and Moscow Burning never materialized, but it hardly mattered to jockey Alex Solis and Light Jig. The Bobby Frankel-trained rising turf star came off the rail in upper stretch and rallied impressively for victory in the $200,000 Beverly Hills Handicap (gr. IIT) for fillies and mares at Hollywood Park.
Making her first start in a graded stakes in the United States, the Juddmonte Farms' English-bred filly tallied by just over a length over Moscow Burning. Noches De Rosa finished third in a time of 2:01 2/5 for the 1 1/4-mile grass test. All three rivals were sent off at odds of 2-1, with Light Jig the narrow favorite in the field of six.
"My only concern was to make sure that I could get out from between the three-eighths and quarter poles," Solis said. "I needed to get out then because she has such a long stride and it takes her a little while to get going. I wasn't sure until the eighth pole if I could get to Moscow Burning. But, at that point, I knew I had her."
He needn't have been concerned. Light Jig swung four wide as Moscow Burning, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, began to pull clear of pacesetting Noches De Rosa and Mike Smith and tiring Miss Loren in the stretch. She powered home after taking a few strides to get into gear.
"I had a dream ride and I still got beat," Desormeaux said. "My filly put in such an effort. But Bobby Frankel just has a superior horse in Light Jig. A really good horse. Compliments to the winner. You can't lose those kind of races unless somebody is ten lengths better than you, and that is what she was."
Moscow Burning, who was coming off a sharp front-running win in the Sheepshead Bay Handicap (gr. IIT) on a yielding Belmont Park surface May 29, was a clear second by 1 1/2 lengths with Noches De Rosa, who won the Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IT) at Hollywood May 31, settling for third.
Because of the running styles of Moscow Burning and Noches De Rosa, pre-race speculation centered on an expected fast pace duel. But instead, Noches De Rosa, with Argentina-bred Miss Loren close on her outside, ambled through fractions of :25 2/5, :49 3/5 and 1:13 3/5. Moscow Burning, third on the outside of Light Jig, was close to the pace throughout, increasing the pressure in upper stretch and soon edging to the front. Light Jig, in the meantime, was able to flee the rail after saving ground all the way and circled her rivals under moderate urging through the drive.
Light Jig, a 4-year-old bay daughter of Danehill–Nashmeel (by Blushing Groom), had raced in France, where she won one of seven starts for Pascal Bary, including a 12th-place finish in a group III race at Deauville. Transferred to Frankel for 2004, she has now won three of four outings in the U.S. She was coming off a 1 1/2-length win as the 3-5 favorite in an optional claiming allowance event at 10 furlongs at Hollywood May 26.
Overall, Light Jig has a record of 4-3-1 in 11 lifetime starts. The victory more than doubled her career earnings to $237,819.
Light Jig paid $6, $3.60 and $2.40. Moscow Burning returned $3.40 and $2.40. Noches De Rosa was $2.20 to show. The exacta was worth $18.
Miss Loren, who was wide in the chute before angling in to contest the pace, finished fourth, beaten only 3 1/2 lengths, followed by Notting Hill and Ardum Relaunch.