Sabine Stable's Laurafina, making her first start since July 29, closed staunchly from the outside under Rafael Bejarano to win the $100,000 Frances A. Genter (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-old fillies on the Calder Race Course turf Saturday.
The Genter is the first of four $100,000 stakes races on Calder's Grand Slam III program.
Trained by Robert Barbara, the late-running gray/roan daughter of Cozzene
won her first graded stakes race. Laurafina had been on the sidelines since a sixth-place finish as the 8-5 choice in the 1 1/6-mile Lake George (gr. IIIT) at Saratoga. She went off at odds of 8-1.
"You can see where she was favored in the Lake George last summer at Saratoga," Barbara said. "We really loved her that day, but didn't run her race. The next morning, we found she had some soft tissue damage in a foreleg, so we sent her to the farm and gave her plenty time.
"I brought her into Gulfstream a few weeks ago and worked her a few times. We considered bringing her back in an allowance race last week, but decided, 'what the heck, let's go for it and run her in the stakes.'"
Laurafina was racing in fifth on the outside coming off the far turn but closed crisply to seize the lead from pacesetting Champagne Ending midway through the stretch. She completed the 7 1/2-furlong distance in a stakes record 1:27.07.
Champagne Ending, ridden by Jorge Chavez, held on for second by a half-length with More Than Promised, the second choice in the field of 12 with Shaun Bridgmohan aboard, settling for third. Pommes Frites, the slight 5-2 favorite, finished fourth.
Jockey Eddie Castro was unseated shortly after the start when his mount, the outsider Elle Runaway, stumbled. A preliminary track report said neither jockey or horse was injured.
Snug Harbor led early through a comfortable opening quarter-mile of :23 before she was overtaken by the 9-1 Champagne Ending, who maintained a slight advantage through the half-mile in :45 1/5. Laurafina, running easily on the outside of her rivals after taking back earlier in the race, edged up on the turn and closed best of all to defeat Champagne Ending by three quarters of a length. The fast closing More That Promised had the leaders in her sights but came up short while nipping Pommes Frites for third.
"My filly broke very sharp but I didn't want her to go too fast early so I just put her in a good position and waited," Bejarano said. "At the three-eighths pole, there was an opening so I put her in there. When we turned for home I moved outside and when she saw the daylight she took off."
After beginning her career with two poor efforts on the Gulfstream Park turf last spring, Laurafina broke her maiden at Belmont Park in May. After a second-place finish in the Sands Point (gr. IIIT) at Belmont in her next start, she won a first-level allowance as a 1-2 favorite prior to the Lake George. She has won three of seven career starts, all on turf, with earnings of $137,620.
Betty Bizsantz bred Laurafina, a $60,000 Keeneland yearling buy in 2003, in Kentucky. The filly was produced from the Avenue of Flags mare Avenue Shopper.
Laurafina paid $19.40, $8.60, and $5.40. Champagne Ending returned $10.20 and $5.20, while More Than Promised paid $3.00 to show. The $2 exacta returned $226.40.
After Pommes Frites, the order of finish was: Flying Circle, Snug Harbour, Aclassysassylassy, Ready's Gal, Tiger Belle, Dansetta Light and Running Bobcats.