Turning Top became a graded stakes winner in her first try at 10 furlongs when she ran down longshot pacesetter Princess Taylor en route to a one-length victory in the $100,000 Beverly Hills Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) on the turf at Hollywood Park June 26.
Trained by Simon Callaghan for owner Michael Tabor, the Irish-bred Turning Top won her fourth consecutive race in the Beverly Hills, which was also her third victory at the current Hollywood meet. She began her career in Great Britain.
“I had this filly over there," noted Callaghan, a former assistant for Todd Pletcher. "She won a couple of races for me in England. She loves fast ground but she really didn’t get the opportunity to show it. She’s pretty straight forward, this filly. She relaxes and gives herself every chance to get the trip. She has all the attributes to do well here.
"It’s great to get a graded win for Michael Tabor. He’s been a very loyal supporter of my father (retired trainer Neville Callaghan) for many years and he’s always been willing to support me. I’m still relatively young and I thought it was the right time (to come to the U.S.). A lot of my owners are European based, but they have horses with Pletcher and a few other trainers here so they suggested it (the move) to me. This is where I see my future.”
The 4-year-old daughter of Pivotal was ridden to victory by Brice Blanc and completed the 1 1/4-mile distance in 2:01.69 over a firm course. The Beverly Hills, which has had a great history at Hollywood Park, was run as a grade III for the first time this year.
General Consensus, the 9-10 favorite in the field of eight older fillies and mares, failed to threaten and finished fifth.
Breaking from the rail, Princess Taylor, off at 16-1 in her second United States start, outfought Turning Top and Pretty Katherine for the early lead and soon took a three-length advantage. Princess Taylor, ridden by Joe Talamo, was allowed to open up by as many as six lengths on the backstretch while clicking off dawdling fractions of :25.55, :49.83 and 1:14.52. Turning Top drew closer to the front-runner at the quarter pole, with Lady Francesca looming on the outside and Restless Soul advancing at the rail.
Turning Top kept the pressure on through the stretch, eventually drawing even and inching past the stubborn Princess Taylor near the sixteenth pole. She finished in a full drive for Blanc to put away Princess Taylor, who held on gamely for second by 1 1/4 lengths over Restless Soul and Victor Espinoza.
"Simon has done a great job with this filly," Blanc said of Callaghan. "She’s so relaxed and easy going and just does everything you want. She’s got a nice finish. It takes her just three or four strides to get in full gear. Then she just levels out and lays her body down. She’s hard to catch when you can quicken like that.”
Princess Haya, the only graded winner in the field coming into the Beverly Hills, finished 1 3/4 lengths farther back in fourth as the 117-pound high weight. General Consensus, who raced near the rear of the field for Rafael Bejarano, was followed by Catsalot, Princess Katherine and Lady Francesca.
“I was pretty clear in the stretch but she didn’t show me too much," Bejarano said of the favorite. "She was a little quiet at the end.”
A two-time winner in nine starts in Great Britain, Turning Top began her North American career with a last-place finish in an allowance race at Santa Anita that was taken off the turf and run on the track's Pro-Ride surface in February. Back on the turf for her next start, she ran a fast-closing third in an allowance race behind eventual grade III winner Medaglia d'Amour March 14. She has been unbeaten in four grass starts since, taking the restricted Redondo Beach Stakes at one mile in her most recent race June 5. Her winning margins in her previous races were a nose, a neck and a head.
Turning Top earned $60,000 for the win, which boosted her career earnings to $171,943 while logging an overall mark of 6-1-3 in 15 races.
The winning dark bay or brown filly was bred by Barouch Stud Ireland and is out of Pietra Dura, by Cadeaux Genereux.
Sent off as the second choice, Turning Top paid $10.40, $6.60 and $4.60. Princess Taylor, rebounding from a ninth-place finish against males in her American debut in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IIT) for trainer Paddy Gallagher, returned $13.40 and $10. She completed a $124.40 exacta, Restless Soul, the only entrant in the field with a prior win at 10 furlongs on the grass, was $5.40 to show.