04/28/2012 6:26PM

Hollywood Park: Willa B Awesome has to go all-out to win Melair

Benoit & Associates
Martin Pedroza, in his first day back riding after sustaining broken ribs two weeks ago, urges Willa B Awesome to a nose victory in the Melair.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Willa B Awesome had as much difficulty winning the $300,000 Melair Stakes for California-breds at Betfair Hollywood Park on Saturday as she did two graded stakes at Santa Anita earlier this year.

The even-money favorite, Willa B Awesome fought past a stubborn pacesetter in Starry Skies to win the Melair for 3-year-old fillies by a nose. The two fillies fought through the final quarter-mile together before Willa B Awesome prevailed under jockey Martin Pedroza.

Saturday was Pedroza’s first day of riding since he sustained broken ribs in a spill at Santa Anita on April 14. He said he wanted to return to ride Willa B Awesome, a filly he guided to wins earlier this year in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes in January and a nose win in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks in March.

Those wins made Willa B Awesome a strong favorite in the Melair.

Pedroza had Willa B Awesome in second for the first six furlongs, stalking a previously unbeaten Starry Skies, who set an early pace of23.88 and 48.08 seconds.

“I believed in my filly,” Pedroza said. “The other filly was 2 for 2. I knew she could be tough.”

Willa B Awesome ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:53.33. Starry Skies, who made her stakes debut and first start around two turns on Saturday, finished 3 1/2 lengths in front of Starlight Magic in the field of six.

“She put in a good race for her first time” going long, jockey Joel Rosario said of Starry Skies. “I think the next time she goes long she will improve a little bit.”

Willa B Awesome races for the partnership of Phil Daniels, Patsy London, John Winter, and breeder Terry Lovingier. Trained by Walther Solis, Willa B Awesome has won 5 of 13 starts and $593,896. The Melair Stakes was her fourth career stakes win.