Charlie Em holds off Scarlet Strike to take the Senorita Stakes.

Charlie Em holds off Scarlet Strike to take the Senorita Stakes.

Benoit Photo

Charlie Em Makes Early Move to Steal Senorita

Newcomer gets jump on odds-on Scarlet Strike to win by a head at Hollywood May 11.

Charlie Em made a brilliant United States debut when she held off 3-5 favorite Scarlet Strike by a head in the $100,500 Senorita Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the turf at Betfair Hollywood Park May 11 (VIDEO).

Racing for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and trainer Paddy Gallagher, Charlie Em was ridden to victory by Garrett Gomez at odds of 9-1. The British-bred daughter of Kheleyf was timed in 1:35.18 on firm ground in the one-mile event for 3-year-old fillies.

Charlie Em had won three of her final five starts for trainer Brendan Powell in Europe but had not been to the post since finishing third Nov. 4 in a minor stakes at Hanover in Germany.

"I've had her probably since November or December," Gallagher said. "It took her a little while, but she came around in the last five weeks. She got rid of her winter coat and started acting and training nice. She breezed a couple of times on the (Hollywood Park) grass and seemed to go nice."

Bred by Highfield Farm, Charlie Em is out of the Pivotal mare Miss Meggy.

Positioned just off the pacesetter Disko Dasko while racing second to the quarter pole, Charlie Em made an early move to get the lead from between horses coming off the turn. Disko Dasko proved stubborn through the lane, however, and Charlie Em was unable to get any breathing room on the early leader until well past the eighth pole.

Charlie Em was under strong urging to reach the wire first as Scarlet Strike, closing willingly from sixth at the quarter pole while four paths wide, charged home to just miss.

"That was a pretty good race for her first time in this country," Gomez said. "They told me she was a little nervous, and to be patient with her. She broke really well. I uncovered her with a half-mile to go. I had to keep grinding on her, but she kept staying."

Scarlet Strike, carrying top weight of 121 pounds, was guided by Rafael Bejarano, who registered his 3,000th North American victory earlier on the card. The Smart Strike miss, who races for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and partners, was looking to make it consecutive grade III victories after taking the Providencia Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Santa Anita Park April 6.

"I tried to get in, but they kept pushing me out a little bit," Bejarano said of his wide trip aboard the favorite. "From the outside post, I had to go wide. There really wasn't much I could do."

Scarlet Strike finished second by 1 1/4 lengths over Kyriaki and Mike Smith. Kyriaki nosed out Need You Now for the show spot. Lilbourne Eliza was next, followed by French-bred Disko Dasko, who posted honest quarter-mile splits of :23.50, :47.01, and 1:10.96. Showgirl Form trailed.

Charlie Em won for the fourth time in nine starts and boosted her earnings to $75,678. Aron Wellman, president of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, indicated that Charlie Em could run next in the $150,000 Honeymoon Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 1/8 miles on turf June 8.

The winner carried 117 pounds and paid $21.40, $6.20, and $4.60 as the fourth choice. Scarlet Strike, who now has two wins and nine placings from 11 lifetime starts, returned $2.20 and $2.10 and completed a $45 exacta. Kyriaki paid $4.20.

Sweet Red Cat scratched.