Valiant Girl, given a hedge-skimming ride by Matthew Rispoli, produced a 42-1 shocker in the $100,000 My Charmer Stakes (gr. IIIT) on a good turf course Dec. 7 at Calder Casino & Race Course (VIDEO).
Rispoli, who was aboard runner-up Valid in the preceding race at Calder, the Fred W. Hooper Handicap (gr. III), notched his first graded stakes win. Four-year-old Valiant Girl, who paid $87.60, $31.60, and $13.40 across the board, secured her initial graded stakes win by half a length for trainer Graham Motion and owner Antoinette Oppenheimer.
"We had been targeting this race," said assistant trainer Dave Rock. "She shouldn't have been that much of a long shot."
Second choice Angelica Zapata settled for second and returned $4.80 and $3.40, while completing a $560.80 exacta. The Motion-trainer Strathnaver was a closing third, paying $4.20. Naples Bay, the 5-2 choice in the field of 11, was never involved while finishing seventh.
Final time for the 1 1/18-mile grass test for fillies and mares was 1:52.71.
Valiant Girl, breaking from the inside post, was able to stay on the hedge throughout while racing third or fourth. She was well covered as Rose to Gold went to the lead while setting a dawdling pace, clipping off quarter mile fractions of :25.81, :52.97, and 1:17.34. Rose to Gold, a three-time graded stakes winner making her turf debut, was pressed on the lead from the outside by Angelica Zapata, and those two were head-and-head as they reached the quarter pole.
Angelica Zapata, ridden by Juan Leyva, took the lead from Rose to Gold, who drifted off the hedge a bit in upper stretch. Strathnaver wound up her late bid for Alan Garcia when angled out and appeared to a be a threat in the drive. But Valiant Girl, challenging at mid-stretch, grabbed the advantage nearing the sixteenth pole. The British-bred daughter of Lemon Drop Kid held on resolutely over Angelica Zapata, with Strathnaver a neck farther back.
"She's the type of filly that will run off," said Rispoli after his first trip on Valiant Girl. "I discussed it with Graham, and we decided that it would be best if we could cover up behind horses and it just worked out the best for us."
Rispoli burst onto the Calder scene at the beginning of November. After a win in the My Charmer, he now has 10 victories out of 22 starts. During November, he was striking at a 47% win rate while hitting the board 68% of the time.
Parranda, in a good stalking position throughout, lacked the needed finishing touch and was fourth. She was followed by Rose to Gold, Somali Lemonade, Naples Bay, Sure Route, Awesome Flower, Millennia, and Team.
Angelica Zapata's three-race stakes winning streak came to an end.
Valiant Girl, winner of the Omnibus overnight stakes on the turf at Monmouth Park Aug. 24, had been given a bit of a breather by Motion after weakening to seventh Oct. 20 in the Dowager Stakes going 1 1/2 miles on the Keeneland lawn. She was clearly overmatched in the Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT) in her first start after the Omnibus Sept. 28 at Belmont Park, finishing last of eight.
She began her career in Great Britain, where she won once in five starts for trainer Roger Charlton before transferring to Motion for the 2013 campaign. The victory was her third from nine U.S. starts.
Bred by Hascombe and Valiant Studs out of the Irish Mark of Esteem mare Victoria Cross, Valiant Girl upped her career mark to 4-1-1 in 14 races with earnings of $130,843.
There were four scratches in the My Charmer: Alaura Michele, Ann of the Dance, Coup, and Poetic Kid. Arriba Anna was entered for the main track only.