German-bred filly La Luna de Miel, making just her second start in the United States, collared Giants Play at the sixteenth pole and held on for a one-length win in the $150,000 Orchid Stakes on the Gulfstream Park grass March 20.
La Luna de Miel was all out for jockey John Velazquez to defeat the rallying 6-5 favorite Endless Expanse in the 1 1/2-mile test for older fillies and mares. The final time was a smart 2:25.76 over firm going.
Trained by Graham Motion for owner Rashit Shaykhutdinov, La Luna de Miel raced twice in her native country, breaking her maiden in her debut last April. She also won her American debut against first-level allowance company going 1 7/16 miles at Gulfstream Feb. 18, and now has three wins in four lifetime starts.
La Luna de Miel stalked in fourth to the quarter pole as 14-1 outsider Queen Martha showed the way for a mile while carving solid fractions for the distance -- :48.61 for a half-mile, 1:12.97 for six furlongs and 1:37.14 for a mile. Giants Play, racing in third at the rail for Joe Bravo, slipped through along the inside to get the lead early on the final turn.
Giants Play opened a clear advantage in the lane and was 1 1/2 lengths ahead at the eighth pole before giving way to the quickly closing La Luna de Miel. The winner eased out from the rail in upper stretch and showed a powerful turn of foot to get the advantage while holding off the late-charging Endless Expanse, who got up for second by a neck from between horses for Julien Leparoux.
"Around the half-mile pole, I was saving all the ground and was looking for Leparoux's horse (Endless Expanse) figuring she was the horse to beat," Velazquez said. "Then I thought Bravo's horse (Giants Play) had gotten away from me, but when I asked my horse she got there quicker than I expected to. It was all her today. She ran a great race."
Giants Play was third, a nose better than Tarrip.
Bred by Stiftung Gestut Fahrhof, La Luna de Miel is by Monsun out of the Hernando mare La Hermana. She earned $90,000 for the Orchid victory to boost her career earnings to $118,312.
"She's bred for the distance with that sire," Motion noted. "She came to us at Palm Meadows in November. David (Rock), my assistant, deserves credit for how she's done here. He's had her here all winter.
"One reason she was sent over is that there are so many more black-type opportunities for fillies and mares over here. We were hoping there would be some speed in the race and that's the way it developed. John (Velazquez) is riding so well and was able to get her covered up and then come on."
Motiion said the 12-furlong Grey Goose Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland April 28 would be the next logical spot for La Luna de Miel.
Under equal weights of 117 pounds, La Luna de Miel paid $19.80, $7.40 and $5 as the fourth choice in the field of eight. Like the winner, the Irish-bred Endless Expanse was making her second U.S. start following an allowance win Feb. 27 at Gulfstream over 1 7/16 miles. Trained by Christophe Clement, she returned $3 and $2.40 and completed a $49.60 exacta. Giants Play, a British import also trained by Clement, was $3.40 to show.
Tarrip was followed by Musical Rain, Zapparition and Queen Martha. Doe Run was pulled up after fading on the final turn and did not finish.