Joseph Allen's Grande Melody made a dramatic late charge under jockey Julien Leparoux to snare victory from favorite and fellow Irish-bred Naissance Royale at the wire in the $150,000 Dahlia Handicap (gr. IIT) as Hollywood Park's 36-day autumn meet came to a close Monday, Dec. 18.
Leparoux, who rode back-to-back winners on the card, is the country's leading jockey with 402 wins in 2006. Victory No. 402 seemed to be in jeopardy as Naissance Royale moved to the lead with authority approaching the sixteenth pole. However, the favorite was unable to fend off the tremendous late run by Grande Melody, who covered 1 1/16 miles on the Lakeside Turf Course in 1:40.96 to win for the third time in seven career starts.
"That leader wasn't stopping, but my filly was the best today," Leparoux said.
Grande Melody, the second choice in the field of 10 fillies and mares, prevailed by a nose while paying $14, $4.60 and $3.80. Naissance Royale, ridden by Garrett Gomez, paid $2.40 and $2.40. Singalong, another 2 ¼ lengths back in third place under Victor Espinoza, returned $5.
"I thought when we turned for home she was going to go on and be home free," Gomez said of the runner-up. "I was hollering for the wire to get there but it didn't get there in time for us."
Patrick Biancone, trainer of Grande Melody, has saddled her three times since she arrived here from France in the summer. She finished third in the Audrey Skirball-Kenis Stakes while making her Hollywood Park debut on Nov. 12.
"She ran well last time and likes the firm ground," Biancone said. "We were too conservative last time -- too far back. We were closer today. My owner (Joseph Allen) bought her before the French Oaks and sent her to me."
The victory, worth $90,000, raised Grande Melody's earnings to $151,432. The daughter of Grand Lodge was bred in Ireland by Watership Down Stud.
Doug O''Neill, meanwhile won his fifth Hollywood Park training title with an Autumn Meet record 24 wins at the 36-day session. Garrett Gomez was leading jockey with 35 wins.