But under a picture-perfect ride from jockey Joel Rosario, the 5-year-old Mastercraftsman mare gobbled up ground in the final turn, cut the corner to slingshot into contention, and closed late to win her first grade 1 by a length over Hawksmoor.
The final time for the mile was 1:34.37.
"Perfect trip—just what we wanted," Rosario said. "She's got that great turn of foot. That's what makes her so special. And she wants to win. When she sees horses in front of her, she wants to get them."
French import Miss Julia Star shot to the lead from post 11 and got to the rail to set the pace—:23.40, :47.09, and 1:11.12 through six furlongs—while Hawksmoor got an ideal trip just off the 38-1 front-runner. When Miss Julia Star began to tire, Hawksmoor took over and opened up a two-length lead on the field with a furlong run, but could not hold off the late charge from Off Limits. Insta Erma, the last-out winner of the Swingtime Stakes at Santa Anita Park, got up for third over favored Cambodia.
"We had a good trip and she ran well," said Hawksmoor's jockey, Julien Leparoux. "When I asked her, she gave it to me. We just couldn't match the winner today."
It was the Chad Brown-trained Off Limits' fourth straight victory, following scores in an optional-claiming allowance in August, the Nobel Damsel (G3T) Sept. 23, and the Athenia (G3T) Oct. 28.
"I think it was the right place to be coming from off the pace with this mare," said Brown's assistant, Jose Hernandez. "The other (Brown-trained) filly (Rubilinda, sixth), I liked very well, but maybe she didn't handle the track as well. They've both very nice horses."
Bred in Ireland by Carlingford Breeding Syndicate, out of the Efisio mare Ravish, Off Limits has a 7-2-1 record from 17 starts and $634,680 in earnings. She was a $30,763 purchase in 2012 at the Goffs November foals sale.
"I talked to (Brown), but he just said, 'Get over there and win the race.' That's it," Hernandez said.