California invader La Martina, the odds-on 1-2 favorite in a field of eight 3-year-old fillies, dug in courageously inside the final sixteenth of mile to win Thursday's $125,000 Walmac Lone Star Oaks, the Fourth of July feature race in front of 7,603 fans at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas. Leading rider Corey Lanerie rode the winner for trainer Jenine Sahadi and collected his record 19th local stakes win.La Martina ran 1 1/16 miles on a "yielding" turf course in 1:48.91, and held off a late charge from 9-2 second choice Dyna Penny to win by three-quarters of a length. Academic Angel, the 8-1 fourth wagering choice, was another half-length back in third.La Martina, a multiple stakes winner, earned $75,000 for her owners, racing syndicate Team Valor and movie producer Gary Barber, and improved her record to four wins and $186,175 in nine starts. Earlier this year, the bay filly won the restricted $51,000 Hidden Light Handicap at Santa Anita Park and $55,000 California Oaks Handicap at Golden Gate Fields.La Martina was unhurried at the back of the pack during the early stages of the race and advanced steadily down the backstretch, tracking a dawdling pace of :25.15 for the first quarter mile and :50.91 for the half. She moved into contention while traveling four-wide on the turn for home, drew within one length of the lead at the eighth pole and surged past Academic Angel inside the final sixteenth of a mile en route to victory."I was able to watch some films on her that [the owners] sent me," said Lanerie, who maintained a 72-55 lead in the Lone Star Park jockey standings over Gerard Melancon after Thursday's action. "It seemed like in every race that she'd run, she always found another gear in the last 70 yards. So I was never really worried battling with [Academic Angel]. I was waiting for that gear, and right there at the end, she put them away just like I saw on tape."Dyna Penny, who stumbled badly at the start and checked while leaving the chute, advanced alongside the winner on the backstretch, but could not out-finish her rival."I had a chance to go with Corey [Lanerie], but I just didn't have the spurt that he did," said Dyna Penny's rider Tim Doocy. "If we had some pace, maybe she would have finished a little stronger."La Martina was bred in Great Britain and previously raced in Europe before she was privately purchased by her connections last fall. After two stakes wins in four U.S. starts, La Martina met the Bobby Frankel-trained Megahertz - one of the favorites in Saturday's inaugural $500,000 American Oaks at Hollywood Park - in back-to-back Southern California stakes. She nearly beat that foe in the Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita in April (she lost by a nose) and was seventh, beaten 5 ¼ lengths, in the Grade II Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 8, her last start.
"I'm happy for her," said Sahadi, who watched the race tape-delayed on television from her home in Sierra Madre, Calif. "She deserved to win a race with some decent money because she's so honest. She just tries every single time. "She's a really nice filly. She ran second, beaten a nose, to Megahertz, and Megahertz looks to be the best out here (in Southern California). I'm going to bring her home right now and let her kick back. Then I'm going to take her down to Del Mar and see what comes up."La Martina, who carried 116 pounds to victory, paid $3, $2.20 and $2.10. Dyna Penny, coupled with fourth-place finisher Took Out, returned $3 and $2.10. Academic Angel paid $2.10.Took Out, 6-1 third-choice Cielo Girl, pacesetter Manzottina, Sassy Sandy and Cozy Susie completed the order of finish. (Chart, Equibase)