Lovely Rafaela Takes Honeymoon Squeaker

(from Hollywood Park report)
Upset-minded Lovely Rafaela would not be denied in a grueling stretch duel, nosing rival Western Hemisphere in the $184,925 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) for 3-year-old fillies at Hollywood Park.

The two horses were one-two the entire race. Lovely Rafaela broke best under Espinoza, but was quickly confronted by Western Hemisphere, who opened up a four-length lead down the backstretch. Lovely Rafaela closed the gap coming out of the final turn, pulled even with Western Hemisphere and the two fought it in a tremendous battle down the lane, the head bob going to Lovely Rafaela.

"I didn't know who won," Espinoza said after sweeping both stakes on the day's card. "For a moment, I thought I had it, but the last 10 yards before the wire, the other filly came back. It was tough. The last few jumps, I stopped hitting my filly and hand rode her. She just responded.

"I didn't want the lead, so I let the other one go. But we were going so slow, I had to attack her at the three-eighths."

Lovely Rafaela covered the 1 1/8 miles on the Lakeside Turf Course in 1:49.96 and paid $34.40, 12.80 and $7.80.

The 3-year-old filly sired by A.P. Indy is trained by Paulo Lobo, who took over recently for Richard Mandella. Lovely Rafaela has won twice in six tries after being beaten by a head her last out. The $113,355 she earned for owner TNT Stud by winning the Honeymoon increased her career bankroll to $160,815.

Lobo won the $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park with Pico Central on Memorial Day.

"It's a dream (week)," he said. "She's very kind, she's a pet. She has a lot of class, a beautiful head."

The Bob Baffert-trained Western Hemisphere was ridden by Javier Santiago, and returned $5.20 and $3.80 as the second choice.

"I was shocked when I heard the result," Santiago said. "I never thought I had lost the race. I was sure I had come back and beaten that other one."

Sagitta Ra, ridden by Corey Nakatani, got up for third and paid $5.20 to show, while Ticker Tape, the 11-10 favorite ridden by Kent Desormeaux, finished fourth.

Jame Cassidy, the trainer of Ticker Tape, blamed a slow pace.

"She was too far back," he said. "Kent made a big move from where he was at, but it's hard to come from that far off the pace, especially on this turf course. The way it looked, I guess we should have been right close to the lead."

Lovely Rafaela and Western Hemisphere each received invites to the $750,000 American Oaks (gr. IT) on July 3 for their efforts in the Honeymoon.

"That's (American Oaks) what we are looking for and I think she is going to improve with the distance," Lobo said. "Her mare (Campagnarde) was a champion at ten furlongs."

Diamond A Racing bred the winner in Kentucky.

Baffert said Western Hemisphere would also aim for the Oaks.

(Chart, Equibase)