Baghdaria kept battling after being passed by the heavily favored French Park and won the $269,200 Silverbulletday (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs by a head Saturday.
With Cliff Berry in the irons, Baghdaria, sent off at odds of 10-1, was making her graded stakes debut for trainer Bret Calhoun. She has won three consecutive races.
The multiple graded stakes winner French Park, undefeated in three starts as a juvenile, appeared to be on her way to victory in her first start since taking the Golden Rod (gr. II) at Churchill Downs Nov. 26.
With Calvin Borel aboard for the first time, French Park overtook Baghdaria on the outside to grab the lead at the top of the stretch and repelled a challenge in the lane by Capozzene. But Baghdaria, carrying 116 pounds – six less than French Park – kept plugging during the long stretch drive on the inside and got up in the closing strides. The winning time for the 1 1/16-mile event on a fast track was 1:46.
"I really thought we were beat at the furlong pole, but she didn't think so," Berry said.
"The last 40 yards, she got a little heavy on me," Borel said of French Park.
Baghdaria, a Kentucky-bred bay filly by Royal Academy
-Oatsee (Unbridled), broke on the lead and settled one length behind Seen Dancing as they completed the opening quarter-mile in :23 3/5, the half in :48 1/5 and three-quarters in 1:13 3/5. At the quarter-pole, Baghdaria took over as the 3-5 choice French Park bore down on her outside coming into the stretch.
French Park opened up by a length in mid-stretch as Capozzene and Robby Albarado gave up the chase, but she just failed to last.
"We've got time to give her a little break and bring her back in the Bonnie Miss (March 5 at Gulfstream)," said Helen Pitts, who trains French Park. "I couldn't be happier."
Baghdaria was coming off a one-mile turf victory over optional claiming/allowance foes at Louisiana Downs Dec. 4. She had broken her maiden in a six-furlong race at Hawthorne prior to that. She bagged $161,520 for the victory – bringing her earnings to $206,240 – and has now won three of five for owners Wayne R. Sanders and Larry Hirsch.
"We know she has a grass pedigree, but we thought she had a good shot," Calhoun said. "You're not going to get to run for a quarter-million dollars in a grade III like this too many times. We thought she fit as well as any other horse in here.
"She's got a lot of class, a lot of heart. This is the most professional race she's run."
Bentley L. Smith bred the winner, who sold as a yearling for $52,000 in September 2004.
Baghdaria paid $23.60, $6.80, and $5. French Park returned $2.40 and $2.10. Capozzene was $2.60 to show.
"I missed the break," Albarado said of the show horse. "It cost me position, and it gave us more work to do. She ran a good race."
Devine Laughter finished fourth, followed by Seen Dancing, Hoochie Glide, Cintarosa, and Wild Tonight.