It was no surprise that an Argentine-bred won the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (gr. II) Sunday at Del Mar, although a bit shocking that it wasn't favored Star Parade. Instead it was Miss Loren, the longest shot in the field who circled the front-runners in mid-stretch with jockey Jon Court and won going away by 3 1/4 lengths.
"Whew! That was fun," laughed Court after winning his first graded stakes in his first season at the seaside track. "I dreamed of days like today."
Star Parade, who carried top weight of 119 pounds, faded out of the money in a contentious field of eight fillies and mares as Miss Loren, carrying five pounds less, lit the board at 34-1. House of Fortune, looking to beat older horses for the first time, finished second, with pacesetting Royally Chosen third. The time for the 1 1/8-mile Hirsch was 1:42 4/5.
A group I winner in her native country, the 6-year-old Miss Loren, a daughter of Numerous owned by the Llers Corporation of Juan and Maria Bago of Miami, Florida and Buenos Aires and trained by Luis E. Seglin, was winless in two previous starts in the United States.
Seglin won his first race in 15 tries in 2004 and his first stakes race at Del Mar. He has been in the U.S. for nine years and started training in his native Argentina in 1986. Prior to that he had been a veterinarian.
The trainer said it was no fluke.
"She's quiet and very professional," Seglin said. "If you want her to come from behind, she will. She'll do what you want her to do. She's perfect for this country. When I saw her, I told the owner, my friend, Juan Carlos Bago, that he needed to send her to this country."
Moving easily while racing outside of Indy Groove early for Court, Miss Loren tracked swift fractions. Royally Chosen completed the opening quarter mile in :22 2/5, the half mile in :46 and six furlongs in 1:10 3/5. Miss Loren swung into contention without being asked at the top of the stretch. Court angled her five wide in the lane and she swept by the leaders under left-handed encouragement.
"We figured there would be a realistic pace to run at – and it turned out just that way," Court said. "I had a dream trip and I just sat chilly until the half-mile pole when I turned it up a notch. I wanted to be in position to make my run turning for home and we were right there. Then she exploded."
Star Parade, the 9-5 choice who won the Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I) at Hollywood Park July 11, was unable to make the lead, which is where she usually does her best running. Instead she pressured the leader with Victor Espinoza into the stretch. Star Parade responded initially when challenged by House of Fortune and Tyler Baze on her outside in the stretch, but could not finish with them as Miss Loren drew away. Royally Chosen held second by a length over Royally Chosen, with Star Parade fourth, 5 1/4 lengths behind Miss Loren.
"I couldn't believe he (Jon Court) blew by me like that," Baze said. "My filly ran great. She was running so nice and easy with that good stride of hers and when I asked her for run, she gave it to me. At the quarter pole I said to myself 'I'm going to win.' But that other mare was too much."
Miss Loren made her United States debut June 6 at Hollywood Park with a distant third-place finish behind Summer Wind Dancer in the Hawthorne Handicap (gr. III). Court got to know her in their next start when they were fourth, beaten by 3 1/2 lengths by Light Jig, on the turf in the June 27 Beverly Hills Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 1/4 miles.
"In her first race (in the U.S.), she was far away from the pace, and then she made a little run and finished third," seglin noted. "I think it was a good first race for here. Maybe she could have been closer, but she didn't suffer nothing.
"Then we ran her on the turf because the owner wanted to try her on the turf because she ran well on the turf in Argentina. But turf racing here is too fast and too tactical and she doesn't have that change of foot that she needs, so I brought her back to the dirt, where I think she belongs."
The $180,000 winner's share Sunday increased her career earnings to $336,400. She has 11 wins in 39 starts.
Miss Loren, whose last victory came in the Copa de Plata (Arg-I) at San Isidro Dec. 6, snapped a five-race losing streak.
She paid $70, $25.80 and $9. House of Fortune, the 5-2 second choice, returned $5 and $4, completing a $337.20 exacta. Royally Chosen, who battled gamely after setting a crisp pace for David Flores, was $10.20 to show.
After Star Parade came Tucked Away, Elloluv, Victory Encounter and Indy Groove.
"She ran good, but this just wasn't her day," Espinoza said of Star Parade, who also won the Santa Maria (gr. I) earlier this year.