Favored Puxa Saco posted a one-length victory over Forest Native in Sunday's $75,000-added Anoakia Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Santa Anita.
Ridden by Mike Smith, Puxa Saco, who previously raced at Calder, is owned Richard Rowan and was making her first start for trainer Jenine Sahadi.
Rowan is the retired president of Savannah (Ga.) College of Art and Design, and now resides in Hollywood, Fla.
The winning time for the Kentucky-bred daughter of Dehere for the six furlongs was 1:09.97, just off the stakes record of 1:09.70.
After getting to the lead in the stretch, Puxa Saco had to hold off the closing Forest Native, another Florida shipper now trained by Chris Paasch and ridden by Kent Desormeaux, who made a race of it for the final furlong.
"She just floated out there," said Smith. "We got slammed pretty good coming out of there, but she didn't let it bother her."
"I only breezed her a couple of times," said Sahadi. "I was more concerned with letting her recover from the flight (from Florida), and getting a little weight on her. She's not a big girl, but she's a gutsy little thing. It's funny that she gets so determined when she's running, because around the barn, she's the most docile thing. I've been lucky, most of the fillies I've had have been really sweet. But she likes a fight, she likes to be headed. I think she lives for that. Now we'll go onto bigger and better things."
Puxa Saco is now 3-for-4 lifetime. The winning purse was worth about $45,000.
Sent off at 8-5 in the field of seven, the winner paid $5.40, $3.80 and $3. Forest Native returned $9.60 and $6.20. Ionia, far back in third, paid $4.40.