Acting Lady, a 20-1 outsider ridden by Victor Espinoza, repelled the charge of American newcomer Mrs Kipling to win the $150,000 Providencia Stakes (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) by a half-length in a big surprise at Santa Anita Park April 4.
Mrs Kipling, sent off at odds of 16-1, combined with the winner for a whopping $2 exacta of $776.60 in the one-mile test for 3-year-old fillies.
Pacesetting Pasar Silbano finished third, 2 1/4 lengths behind the winner, followed by Burg Berg and 2-1 favorite Rosy Mantle, who was in position to challenge in the homestretch only to be out-kicked in the lane. The final time was 1:34.20.
“Anytime they win and they’re 20-1, you’re a little surprised," said winning trainer Doug O'Neill. "But we’ve been so proud of the fact that this filly tries hard every time. Victor rode her brilliantly. These turf races, so much of it is (the) trip, and he just saved the ground and gave her a dream trip."
O'Neill said he had no immediate plans for the Kentucky-bred daughter of Theatrical, a $35,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase in 2007.
"The owners (Andy Bell and Stephen Russell) are in town from England, so we’re just going to enjoy this one for now,” he said.
The lineup for the Providencia was filled with up-and-coming fillies, several new to racing in the United States. Acting Lady, who finished fifth to Pasar Silbano in the La Habra Stakes (gr. IIIT) at 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course March 8, was overlooked as a result.
Pasar Silbano, ridden by Joel Rosario, threatened to make the Providencia a runaway when she opened a 3 1/2-length advantage after an opening half-mile of :46.19. She still enjoyed a two-length lead with a quarter-mile to run after completing six furlongs in a handy 1:10.31, but was tiring as she approached mid-stretch.
Acting Lady, stalking along the inside for Espinoza, gained a slight advantage from between horses inside the eighth pole and was immediately challenged by the Irish-bred Mrs Kipling, one of the first-time U.S. starters who wound up her charge after chasing the leaders from four paths wide on the final turn. But Acting Lady, on Mrs Kipling's inside, responded to the challenge, inching to a half-length lead in deep stretch and holding on gamely under heavy encouragement from her rider.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better trip," Espinoza said. "At the half mile pole, I had a decision to make, whether to go inside or out. I decided I wanted to save ground, so I stayed inside and we got lucky. Sometimes it works out and sometimes not, but today we got through and she finished great.”
Mrs Kipling, group-placed in her last start at Ascot in England nearly six months ago, had never raced beyond six furlongs and was found slightly wanting in the final strides while well clear of the show horse, Pasar Silbano, also an Irish-bred filly.
Acting Lady, who debuted in Great Britain last August before transferring to the U.S. in the fall, had one prior win in seven starts, breaking her maiden at one mile on the Hollywood Park lawn Nov. 29. She was coming off a runner-up showing in Santa Anita's one-mile China Doll Stakes on grass March 8. The victory, worth $90,000, increased her earnings to $141,320.
Sanford R. Robertson bred Acting Lady. The dark bay filly is out of the Sharrood mare Lady Fairfax.
Sent off as the eighth choice in the Providencia's field of 11, she paid $43.60, $19, and $9.80. Trainer Neil Drysdale sent out Mrs Kipling, a listed stakes winner in Italy who returned $15.60 and $92.0. The James Cassidy-conditioned Pasar Silbano, making her third U.S. start, was $4.40 to show.
It was three-quarters of a length to Burg Berg, who edged Rosy Mantle by a neck. Then came Air Fair, African Skies, Oui Say Oui, Will O Way, Fastongrass, and Pride Dancer, who drifted out badly on the first turn and trailed throughout.