Arizona Invader Virden a Senorita Surprise

Arizona invader Virden, the longest shot in the field at odds of 26-1, went gate to wire to win the $111,900 Senorita (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-old filles by a nose on the Hollywood Park turf course Sunday.

Ridden by Omar Figueroa for the trainer Dan McFarlane, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Tactical Cat took advantage of a distinct lack of speed in the field of 10. In the short run to the clubhouse turn, she pulled her way to the front out of the gate and got to the rail in spite of her outside post. She completed the one-mile test in 1:35 1/5 for her second win on the grass in as many tries.

Carrying co-top top weight of 119 pounds Virden set comfortable fractions of :23 4/5, :47 4/5 and 1:11 3/5, inching away in the stretch before accepting the challenge of Irish-bred Three Degrees in deep stretch and barely prevailing under strong left-handed urging from Figueroa.

"The trainer told me not to fight her, and she wanted to go to the lead," said Figueroa, who collected his first Hollywood Park stakes win and 18th overall. "We were able to slow it down pretty good. I heard that other filly coming. I rode my filly as hard as I could, and she held on."

Three Degrees, with Alex Solis aboard, came flying from the back of the pack on the turn to just miss with a wide rally.

"Just a little longer, that's what she needed, and maybe a little more pace to run at," Solis said. "But I was very proud of her, and it would seem she can go long. She's bred for it. I would think the American Oaks (gr. IT) might be a consideration down the line. You never know."

It was 1 1/4 lengths back to Thatswhatimean and Jon Court, who nosed out Unusual Spring for third.

Shining Energy, the 5-2 favorite ridden by Ramon Dominguez, broke last and was never a factor, finishing seventh.

Virden, a $15,000 Keeneland yearling purchase in September 2003, earned $67,140 for owner Dennis E. Weir, a Phoenix car accessory manufacturer. The dark bay filly was coming off a 6 3/4-length win in the Scottsdale Handicap on the Turf Paradise grass April 2, at the Senorita distance of eight furlongs. Overall, she has a 4-2-1 record in seven starts with earnings of $145,840. All her previous efforts were on the Turf Paradise main track.

"This might be my biggest win ever, actually," said the 41-year-old McFarlane. "I thought she was running good on the dirt, but that last race at Turf Paradise (on the turf), they gave her a low Beyer but her time was really good (1:35 4/5). At first she didn't look like she was very comfortable, but then she really settled in. And she looked good today, obviously."

McFarlane said he would probably run her on the turf in Southern California again.

Charles Nuckols Jr. & Sons bred the filly, who was produced by the Private Terms mare Make a Deal.

She paid $54.40, $17.80 and $7.60 while topping a $344.20 exacta with the 3-1 second choice Three Degrees ($6, $4.20), who had previously won both of her United States starts for trainer Patrick Gallagher on the Santa Anita downhill turf course. Thatswhatimean, winner of the China Doll and third in the Providencia (gr. IIIT) at Santa Anita in her two turf starts for trainer Warren Stute, was $4.40 to show.

After Unusual Spring came Royal Copenhagen, Dramatic, Shining Energy, Royal Wave, Private Banking and Mashina.

(Chart, Equibase)