04/15/2017 6:12PM

Light In Paris rewards connections with Plenty of Grace win

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Owner Martin Schwartz and trainer Chad Brown had immediate success last year after importing the filly Sea Calisi from France. It has taken Light In Paris longer to come around, but on Saturday at Aqueduct she finished strongly to score the first stakes win of her career in the $100,000 Plenty of Grace.

Light In Paris, a 5-year-old bred in Ireland, was brought to the U.S. from France in fall 2015. Her best result from three starts before going to the sidelines for 11 months was a close third-place finish in the Tropical Park Oaks at Gulfstream Park in December of that year.

She scored her first North American victory in a no-conditions optional-claiming race while making her comeback this past January at Tampa Bay Downs. She subsequently finished second to front-running Isabella Sings in the Grade 3 Endeavour at Tampa and was sixth in the Grade 2 Hillsborough.

Light In Paris was given a picture-perfect ride by Manny Franco in the Plenty of Grace and finished strongly to suggest bigger prizes lie ahead. Franco tucked Light In Paris in behind the pacesetters, Bishop's Pond and My Sweet Girl, and bided his time until upper stretch through manageable fractions of 47.58 and 1:12.48.

Franco asked Light In Paris to accelerate in upper stretch and took her inside the leaders where the infield chute joins the main course and there is additional running room. Light In Paris swept to the lead and pulled away to win by 2 3/4 lengths, stopping the teletimer in 1:36.10 over firm footing.

"I went low and the space opened," Franco said. "I had a lot of horse."

Light In Paris paid $9 as the second betting choice behind 8-5 Bar of Gold, who had a difficult trip and finished fourth. Bishop's Pond, the longest shot on the board at 30-1, held second by a neck over My Sweet Girl. It was a head farther back to Bar of Gold, who was bumped and pinched back at the start.

Bar of Gold made a menacing move to contention wide on the far turn. She appeared headed to victory in upper stretch but flattened out. The Plenty of Grace was her first start since being freshened in Ocala, Fla., over the winter.

My Impression, who was 7-2, was fifth, a neck behind Bar of Gold. My Impression dropped back to last on the far turn, then finished willingly.

Light In Paris is now 6 for 15 in her career with earnings of $235,699. She may not reach the level of Sea Calisi, who won the Grade 1 Beverly D. and Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay for Schwartz and Brown last year, but Saturday's race was certainly a big step in the right direction.

** Sea Calisi has worked eight times at Palm Meadows since Feb. 26 and appears to be nearing the first start of her 5-year-old season.

** The official first quarter of the Plenty of Grace was timed in 21.99 seconds but it certainly did not appear Bishop's Pond was going that quickly.