03/12/2016 5:15PM

Baciami Piccola makes big splash winning Florida Oaks in United States debut

Tom Keyser
Baciami Piccola, racing beyond six furlongs for the first time, scores a 14-1 upset under Julien Leparoux in the Florida Oaks.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – The British filly Baciami Piccola was dripping with sweat in the winner’s circle following the 33rd running of the Grade 3, $155,000 Florida Oaks on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, and for good reason. She had just mowed down 12 other 3-year-old fillies in the stretch to win her first start in the United States, finishing a half-length ahead of another British filly, Enjoy Yourself.

With Julien Leparoux aboard, Baciami Piccola dropped in toward the rail after breaking from post 12 in the 1 1/16-mile test on firm turf and settled into 10th place, saving ground as Valueable Charmer and Conquest Bebop battled for the lead. That pair fought through a quarter-mile in 23.01 seconds and a half-mile in 46.99 while tracked by Ava’s Kitten, who was favored after winning the $100,000 Chelsey Flower Stakes in October in her most recent start.

Baciami Piccola advanced around the final turn and angled out for running room at the top of the stretch, taking aim at Enjoy Yourself, who was moving up smartly to take the lead. Baciami Piccola ($31) closed resolutely to get up in time, finishing in 1:42.20.

“We liked the filly before the race,” Leparoux said. “With the 13 post, she broke pretty good, but I kind of took her back and saved ground around the first turn, and saved ground all the way around actually, and she finished strong.”

Baciami Piccola, an Equiano filly, was purchased by Amerman Racing and transferred to trainer Brian Lynch last summer. Prior to the sale, she had won one of three starts, including a second-place finish in a minor stakes race at Vichy in France in July, but she had never run beyond six furlongs. Baciami Piccola hinted at her ability Feb. 19 with a five-furlong workout in 58.40 seconds at Palm Meadows.

“It was very gutsy, and we have a lot to look forward to,” Lynch said of the filly’s effort in the Florida Oaks. “She had never been beyond six furlongs, and to get the mile and a sixteenth, it obviously shows she has an abundance of talent.

“She came over in midsummer and was a little slow to get adjusted to the way we do things over here, so we kind of played with her through the fall. Julien spent a lot of time with her at Palm Meadows. She’s a very difficult filly to ride, temperamental, and they seem to get along fantastic. It’s wonderful when a plan comes together.”

Lynch said Baciami Piccola will get some time off and might run again toward the end of the Keeneland spring meet, but her main goal is the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational this summer.

Enjoy Yourself, who was third to Ava’s Kitten in the Chelsey Flower, entered the Florida Oaks off a win in a first-level optional $75,000 claimer here Feb. 17. Enjoy Yourself, a daughter of Sir Percy, was ridden by Antonio Gallardo for trainer John Terranova. Gallardo said he was pleased with Enjoy Yourself’s effort.

“She’s a good filly, and she gave me everything today,” he said. “She tried hard to the wire, but the other one beat me.”

Enjoy Yourself finished a neck in front of Family Meeting, the winner of the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante Stakes on the Del Mar turf in November. They were followed by Princess Princess, Ava’s Kitten, Gamble’s Ghost, Miss Otis, Bonita, Cinder, Missalaney, Conquest Bebop, Silver Magnolia, and Valueable Charmer.