Making her first start for trainer Neil Drysdale, Three Hearts took the lead in the stretch at odds of 29-1 and proved too tough while holding off Lady of Gold in the $100,000 Red Carpet Handicap (gr. IIIT) Nov. 22 on the Del Mar turf (VIDEO).
Three Hearts, a Kentucky homebred for Team Valor International, scored by half a length for her first stakes victory, accomplished in a time of 2:15.54 for the 1 3/8-mile distance over firm going. Lady of Gold edged the fast-closing Lady Pimpernel for second by a neck, with Scooter Bird a nose farther back in fourth in the Red Carpet, formerly the Beverly Hills Handicap when contested at Hollywood Park.
The victory by Joe Talamo on Three Hearts, before a crowd of 18,083, was some consolation after he was replaced by Mike Smith on $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (gr. III) winner Ocho Ocho Ocho Saturday in Louisiana.
Three Hearts is a 4-year-old daughter of Hat Trick out of Team Valor's multiple South African group I-placed stakes winner Secret Heart, by Fort Wood. She posted her first win since April 2013.
"I think I've only had this filly since late September," Drysdale said. "Team Valor has decided to send some horses out to the West Coast again. We took the blinkers off and it was a really lovely ride, well-positioned. I talked to Barry Irwin (Team Valor president) and thought that she could go a bit longer distances. This was a mile and three-eighths. I think she'll go a mile and a half."
Talamo placed Three Hearts midpack on the outside in the field of 11 older fillies and mares early as Luscious Lonna set out on the lead while prompted by Bee Brave, with Modernstone and Hijra forwardly placed. Bee Brave took the lead from Luscious Lonna after a quarter mile and managed to hold a slim advantage as she reached the three-eighths marker in 1:38.99 following earlier splits of :24.78, :49.52, and 1:15.06.
Three Hearts was poised to take over rounding the final turn as Talamo looked for a seam. She hit the front coming into the stretch after progressing from between horses with Lady of Gold and Kent Desormeaux in close pursuit. Lady of Gold drew close in the final furlong, but Three Hearts had her measured late under Talamo's urging.
"She broke good from the outside and I was able to get her over and save ground," Talamo said. "She's such a classy filly to ride; she relaxed so nicely. When I asked her she fired and we still had a lot left in the tank."
Lady of Gold held second over Lady Pimpernel. The third-place finisher, making her United States debut for trainer Carla Gaines, was held up in traffic in the homestretch before finding an opening at the rail. The English-bred filly was closing furiously for Victor Espinoza but ran out of time. Fourth-place finisher Scooter Bird was also a willing finisher.
"At the three-eighths I got bumped and she stumbled," Desormeaux said of the runner-up. "She was going so good to that point. It took her off her game and I think it made the difference."
Winning Rhythm made a move rounding the far turn but lacked the needed finish, while 5-2 favorite Appealing Cat was bottled up on the inside and never got a chance after steadying off heels on the final bend. She finished sixth under Rafael Bejarano. Then came Left a Message, Hijra, Bee Brave, Modernstone, and Lusicious Lonna.
Three Hearts, who carried a feathery 115 pounds, paid $61.40, $25, and $11.60, topping a whopping $665 exacta with 13-1 shot Lady of Gold, who returned $13.60 and $8.40. Lady Pimpernel paid $4.80 to show.
Three Hearts, who has done most of her running on the East Coast, was off for an entire year following a close third-place finish after setting the pace in the Virginia Oaks (gr. IIIT) at Colonial Downs for trainer Rick Mettee. The good-looking bay filly was making her fourth appearance of the year after returning to action in July.
Her most recent start came Sept. 1 in an allowance/optional claiming race at Saratoga Race Course at nine furlongs on turf, where she finished fourth. Since joining Drysdale's stable, Three Hearts posted five published workouts, most recently a six-furlong move on the Del Mar turf Nov. 16 in 1:19 with dogs up.
She improved her career mark to 3-3-3 in 14 races with earnings of $192,249.
Scratched were also-eligibles Macaabra and Soresca.