No experience, no problem—not at least for DP Racing's Prize Exhibit.
In her first trip down the Santa Anita Park hillside turf course and first sprint since relocating from Europe, Prize Exhibit got a dream rail trip and held off a late-closing effort from defending winner Shrinking Violet to capture the $200,000 Monrovia Stakes (gr. IIT) by a nose Jan. 3.
Video: Monrovia S. (G2T)
The 4-year-old Showcasing filly raced in fourth under jockey Santiago Gonzalez in the turn, as early leaders Heavens Stairway and Velvet Mesquite moved out from the rail entering the stretch, and Shrinking Violet followed her rival through the opening on the inside, but could not get past.
"I didn't think she'd have any problem (coming down the hill for the first time), unless she started idling trying to figure out what the heck this is all about, which she has a tendency to do," winning trainer Jim Cassidy said. "But being that (Gonzalez) had her surrounded, she didn't have any time to think about that, so that was a good thing. I was a little upset we were that close, but when it opened for her, he rode her perfect, and she's a hard horse to ride."
Kent Desormeaux, who rode Shrinking Violet, said what he felt was soft ground didn't suit his mount.
"She's not fond of soft ground. I think she ran her eyeballs out but she got beat a nose in a situation she doesn't care to be in," Desormeaux said. "Not to mention, she's been off a while, so I don't think it would have mattered as much if she was racing with one under her belt."
Heavily favored Ageless, who alternated between seventh and eighth with Shrinking Violet early in the race, made a simultaneous move with her fellow closer, but went five wide instead and it may have cost her, finishing a half-length back in third.
"I thought everything went pretty good," said Ageless' trainer, Arnaud Delacour. "She had a good trip and she was finishing, so we're pretty happy with the race she ran."
Heavens Stairway set fractions of :21.33 and :43.52 through a half-mile, before Prize Exhibit took over to run six furlongs in 1:06.64, hitting the wire for 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:12.96 on firm turf.
Prize Exhibit broke through in 2015 with graded scores in the Senorita (gr. IIIT) and San Clemente (gr. IIT), both at a mile. Later in the year, she hit the board in the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) and Yellow Ribbon Handicap (gr. IIT), but faltered in her last two starts—the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) and Matriarch (gr. IT).
The winner paid $17.80, $7.60, and $4.20 across the board. Shrinking Violet brought $7.40 and $4, while 6-5 favorite Ageless returned $2.60 to show.
Illuminant rallied to come in fourth, followed by Theatre Star, Baruta, Velvet Mesquite, Lutine Belle, Singing Kitty, Heavens Stairway and Our Pure Creation, to complete the order of finish.
Bred in England by Mrs R. F. Johnson Houghton, out of the Inchinor mare Roodeye, Prize Exhibit pushed her record to 6-2-2 from 20 career starts with $530,800 in earnings.