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HORSE RACING

Santa Teresita tops a day of upsets at Santa Anita

Joe Talamo rides the 13-1 shot to victory in the Grade I Santa Maria Handicap.

February 15, 2009|Eric Sondheimer

On a day filled with long-shot winners at Santa Anita, 19-year-old jockey Joe Talamo pulled off the biggest surprise Saturday, guiding Santa Teresita at odds of 13-1 to a 2 1/2 -length victory in the Grade I $300,000 Santa Maria Handicap.

"You're my hero," Southern Equine Stable racing manager Nicholas Hines shouted to Talamo in the winner's circle.

Santa Teresita, a 5-year-old daughter of Lemon Drop Kid purchased for $1.5 million after she had finished second to unbeaten Zenyatta last year, was able to hold off Model and Marzelline, who finished in a dead heat for second. Visit, the 3-2 favorite, was sixth in a field of eight.

Santa Teresita had finished seventh, third, seventh and 10th in races since trainer Eric Guillot took over for David Hofmans.

His partner, the Lafayette, La.-based Michel Moreno, owner of Southern Equine Stable, had even suggested sending Santa Teresita to the breeding shed.

But Guillot blamed heavy turf for her last poor performance in the Grade III Tuzla Handicap on Jan. 25 at Santa Anita and was confident she'd respond Saturday.

"I was pretty high on her today," he said. "I thought she'd run big and she did. I told Joe, 'She just doesn't like being buried inside on the rail.' "

Talamo had Santa Teresita stalking pacesetter Briecat until the final turn, turned her loose and she drew off to win in 1:41.88 for the 1 1/16 miles.

"At the quarter pole, I said, 'OK mama, let's go,' and she really gave it to me," Talamo said. "She was striding out great."

It was the third consecutive victory for Talamo on a strange day of racing.

Eight of the 10 races produced long-shot winners returning $15.00 or higher. Two jockeys, Gerry Olguin and Patrick Husbands, were unseated during races, with Husbands escaping injury despite a frightening scene when his horse, Gloriously, suffered a right front leg injury while leading in the seventh race just yards from the finish line, dumping Husbands to the ground.

Adding to the day of unpredictable happenings, the Santa Maria was delayed when one of the leading contenders, Country Star, had to be scratched after she acted up in the gate.

There were no pick-six winners, resulting in a carryover pool of $145,478, the 17th such occurrence in 38 days of racing at the meet.

It was the biggest day of racing ever for Southern Equine Stable, which spent more than $20 million on horses last year, including $14 million for the broodmare Better Than Honour, the dam to Belmont Stakes winners Jazil and Rags To Riches.

"It's all gravy now because we've got our Grade I," Hines said.

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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