05/11/2007 11:00PM

On the Acorn continues roll in Murray Memorial


INGLEWOOD, Calif.- Victor Espinoza had better luck at the end of Saturday afternoon than he did earlier in the day.

Espinoza missed riding favored Peace Chant in the Los Angeles Handicap after he had a flat tire en route to the track. He arrived at Hollywood Park in time for his final two mounts, and finished the day with a victory aboard the ex-claimer On the Acorn in the $250,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap.

On the Acorn was fifth with a quarter-mile remaining, and won the Grade 2 Murray by a half-length over pacesetter Prospect Park after Espinoza guided On the Acorn along the rail in the stretch.

Espinoza said staying on the rail was his first option, fearing he would lose too much ground with a wide rally. "I had a ton of horse all the way around," Espinoza said. "I wanted to stay inside."

On the Acorn ($7) ran 1 1/2 miles on turf in 2:29.07. Notable Guest finished third in the field of six.

The victory gave On the Acorn a unique double. He won the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap over about 1 3/4 miles on turf on April 22, his first career stakes win.

The 6-year-old gelding was claimed for $40,000 by the six-person Indizguys Stable last November. Since being claimed, On the Acorn has earned $398,000.

At times, it seemed like the Murray would take forever to finish. Prospect Park set early fractions of 26.71 and 51.93 seconds, leading by 1 1/2 lengths in the early stages. Espinoza said On the Acorn was eager to move closer to the leaders with a half-mile remaining.

"They left me an opening and he wanted to go," he said. "I didn’t want to go at that point. I thought he'd take off."

Espinoza said he was embarrassed at missing the LA Handicap, but was glad he was not injured when a friend's car struck a piece of metal on the freeway. "Accidents happen," he said. "I’m lucky we were able to change the tire."

* Valbenny confirmed her status as a contender for the $750,000 American Oaks on July 7 with an impressive victory in the $111,600 Senorita Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Valbenny ($6.40) rallied from seventh under jockey Alex Solis to win the one-mile turf race by 1 3/4 lengths over Super Freaky in 1:34.47. Passified, who set a pace of 23.55 and 47.37 seconds, finished third after leading to mid-stretch in the field of eight.

The Grade 3 Senorita was Valbenny's first win since the Blue Norther Stakes at Santa Anita last December. Valbenny was sixth as the favorite in the Grade 3 Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita last month.

A maiden winner in England last year, she won the Grade 3 Miesquie Stakes here last November in her U.S. debut.

Owned by a partnership and trained by Patrick Gallagher, Valbenny has won 4 of 7 starts and $187,003.

* Sailors Sunset won his first stakes of 2007 in the $105,800 Los Angeles Handicap, his second stakes win on Hollywood’s synthetic track. Last December, Sailors Sunset pulled an upset in the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood Stakes on the surface.

Both races unfolded in the same style. Sailors Sunset took an early lead and was not caught. But his win in the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap was not easy.

Ridden by Jon Court, Sailors Sunset was challenged through the stretch by 4-5 Peace Chant, who drew alongside with a furlong remaining under Richard Migliore and briefly led. Sailors Sunset raced on the rail, and pulled away in the final sixteenth win by a half-length.

Sailors Sunset ($10.40) ran six furlongs in 1:09.03 after setting early fractions of 21.94 and 44.30 seconds.

Peace Chant held second, finishing a length in front of Northern Soldier in the field of five.

Sailors Sunset has won 6 of 17 starts and $308,090 for Everest Stables and trainer Marcelo Polanco.