Briecat in the Las Palmas.

Briecat in the Las Palmas.

Benoit Photography

Briecat, Valenzuela Claw Out Las Palmas Theft

Mare gets first graded stakes in more than two years as Oak Tree meet comes to end.

Briecat led all the way for jockey Patrick Valenzuela to score a 13-1 upset by a neck in the $150,000 Las Palmas Handicap (gr. IIT) on closing day of the Oak Tree meet Oct. 31 over the Hollywood Park turf (VIDEO).

The speedy 5-year-old daughter of Adcat registered her first graded stakes win since she captured the Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) on Hollywood's Cushion Track in December 2008, also in front-running fashion at odds of 13-1.

Vladimir Cerin conditions the winning chestnut mare for Holly and David Wilson. Briecat served notice that she was sitting on a top effort with a runner-up effort when just failing to last in the Swingtime Stakes at the distance in her most recent start Oct. 10.

"She's very, very tough on the lead," Cerin noted. "The key with her is to open up when she turns for home and hope they can't get her. Today they couldn't." 

Briecat, assigned 116 pounds but carrying top weight of 120 due to a four-pound overweight, was timed in a solid 1:34.77 for the mile over a firm course while defeating seven rivals.

Leaving from the rail for Valenzuela, Briecat broke outwardly, bumping with Westwood Pride and squeezing a couple of others while getting a narrow lead and expanding it rounding the clubhouse turn. Briecat led by about two lengths while carving easy fractions of :24.20, :47.93, and 1:11.19. Westwood Pride, a rank Distinctive along the inside, and Turning Top on the outside, were all in pursuit.

But Briecat continued to show the way around the far turn and took a two-length advantage in the stretch run. Westwood Pride, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, and Turning Top, with Brice Blanc aboard, gradually cut into the advantage, but Briecat responded to the challenge and proved determined all the way to the wire. She held on under urging in a patented Pat V. ride.

"She ran a good race, Vlado (Cerin) had her plenty fit," said Valenzuela, who last won the Las Palmas aboard Ack’s Secret in 1980 when the race was contested at 1 1/8 miles on dirt.

"She paced her own pace and picked it up nice on the turn," Valenzuela added. "I think she won it on the turn when she got away from the horses because when she picked it up everybody else had to pick it up. Through the stretch they didn't have as much finish (because) she did that. She stuck her head down and fought them off."

"He (Valenzuela) is just unbelievable," Cerin said. "I told him if he was in a bank, they'd arrest him for stealing."

Westwood Pride wound up second, a head in front of second choice Turning Top. Favored Blue Maiden (13-10), racing mid-pack for Joel Rosario after being squeezed at the start in her first U.S. start, never fired and finished seventh.

Briecat, who has enjoyed most of her success on synthetic or fast dirt tracks, won for the second time in eight tries on turf. Her overall mark stands at 8-3-0 in a 24-race career with earnings of $467,805 with the Las Palmas winning purse of $90,000. Her last victory came in the Las Madrinas Stakes at Fairplex Park Sept. 25.

"This is the heaviest, the best she's ever looked, by far. I still wasn't confident about running her today," Cerin said. "We have her nominated for a race in Louisiana ($125,000 Treasure Chest at one mile) on Delta Jackpot Night (Nov. 20 at Delta Downs). But I figured if we run her here, I won't have to train her hard. We'll see how she comes out of this race, but we're still looking at Louisiana."

Bred in Florida by Ocala Oaks and Don R. Graham, Briecat is out of the Marlin mare Silk Briefcase.

She paid $29, $10.60, and $5.60 and teamed with Westwood Pride ($7.20, $3.80), making her stakes debut for red-hot trainer Kristin Mulhall, for a $143.40 exacta. Michael Tabor's Turning Top, who ran second in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT) Oct. 2, was $2.80 to show under 119 pounds.

Wynning Ride, shuffled back when squeeezed a bit at the start, came on well between horses late to get fourth, followed by Distinctive, Princess Taylor, Blue Maiden, and Value Stream.

Racing in Southern California resumes at Hollywood Park's autumn meet beginning with a 7 p.m. post on Nov. 4.