The 4-year-old French-bred Lady of Venice notched her third victory in a row and her fifth win in seven U.S. starts since being transferred to trainer Patrick Biancone last year. The daughter of Loup Solitaire picked up her third graded stakes win while also winning for the fourth time in five tries at the one-mile distance.
With Julien Leparoux aboard, Lady of Venice was next to last and in tight quarters on the far turn, angled outward for the drive, and came home flying to clock an excellent 1:33 2/5 on a very firm track. She did so even though Leparoux lost his whip surging past the pacesetter Precious Kitten, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, and Price Tag, with Edgar Prado aboard.
At 23, Leparoux is one of America's rising riding stars. The victory was his first in a $1 million race.
"I don't really look at how much a race is worth, but it's always nice to win a grade I," he said.
Leparoux said he lost his whip mid-stretch, but still coaxed the filly to the wire.
"That's the most important thing for her," he said. "If she relaxes the first part, then the second part she can make a good kick, and that's what she did."
Juddmonte's Price Tag, the 4-5 choice, had exploited room at the head of the stretch to get a head in front of Precious Kitten, who carved quick fractions of :22 4/5 and :46 and 1:09 3/5. Precious Kitten fought back, however, and finished a head in front of Price Tag.
Lady of Venice employed similar late-running tactics to win the one-mile Ouija Board Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Lone Star Park in her previous start May 28. She has won seven of 10 starts lifetime with earnings of $964,521 for owner Martin S. Schwartz. She banked $525,000 for the victory.
The chestnut filly paid $12.20, $5.20, and $3.40.
Biancone was in New York on Friday night, leaving 21-year-old assistant Thomas Brandebourger to saddle Lady of Venice to her third consecutive victory this year.
"She has never run under the lights before, but it's something that we were not too concerned about," he said. "It's pretty special to win a race in America. After you win in France, there are not so many people around you like there are here. I am enjoying it."
Bobby Frankel saddled both the second and third-place finishers, Sarah and Kenneth Ramsey's Precious Kitten ($6.60, $3.80) and the grade I winner Price Tag ($2.40), who was coming off a second-place finish to stablemate Citronnade in the Gamely (gr. IT).
"I got outrun," Frankel said.
Dancing Edie, fourth last year in the CashCall, finished eighth. She's co-owned by J. Paul Reddam, whose CashCall consumer lending company sponsored the race.
The Japanese breds Kiss to Heaven and Dia de la Novia finished fourth and fifth, respectively, followed by Arm Candy, the South African-bred Alexandra Rose, Dancing Edie, and Koiuta.
Wait a While, last year's champion 3-year-old filly, would have been the favorite. But she was scratched by trainer Todd Pletcher when she developed a temperature after arriving at Hollywood Park on Tuesday from New York.
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