09/08/2014 8:11PM

Living the Life wins Presque Isle Masters

Coady Photography
Living the Life, ridden by Mike Smith, wins the Presque Isle Masters by a half-length Monday.

Under a smooth ride from Mike Smith, California shipper Living the Life stayed perfect in North America by rallying from just off the pace to win the Grade 2 Presque Isle Masters on Monday evening. The $400,000 Masters is the highlight of the Presque Isle season and is contested over a synthetic Tapeta track.

Living the Life was always within striking distance in the 6 1/2-furlong race for fillies and mares. On the far turn, when many members of the field fanned out and launched their moves, Smith sat chilly, biding his time. When the field turned into the stretch, a lane opened for Living the Life, and Smith sent her through without losing much ground. She took the lead outside of Ageless nearing the furlong pole, drew clear, and then held the sharp local runner Disco Barbie safe to win by a half-length.

It was a length back from Disco Barbie to Ageless in third. Longshot Cactus Kris finished fourth, a half-length behind Ageless and a nose before fifth-place finisher My Option.

The disappointment of the race was California runner Madame Cactus, who refused to leave the gate. She remained in her starting stall until long after the race began and then only walked out. The stewards conducted an inquiry into the start but ruled that Madame Cactus had every chance to break.

Significant Bling went to the lead at the start while being stalked by Ageless, who was under restraint from jockey Julien Leparoux. Disco Barbie saved ground while nicely placed along the inside.

Significant Bling set fractions of 23.46 and 46.44 seconds on an open lead. Ageless took a brief advantage entering the stretch as the field fanned out across the track without much separating the top half-dozen runners, but Living the Life emerged from the pack and was followed by Disco Barbie, who was forced to wait her turn inside the winner nearing the stretch.

Living the Life covered six furlongs in 1:09.48 and stopped the teletimer in 1:15.26.

Living the Life, trained by Gary Mandella, paid $7.40 to win as the slight favorite over Disco Barbie. The pair combined for a $2 exacta of $34.20.

Living the Life, a 4-year-old bred in Ireland and owned by Henry Nothhaft, made the first 19 starts of her career in Britain, primarily as a synthetic-track specialist racing for little prize money. In her final start in Britain in April, she finally got to run for a large purse in the $251,900 All-Weather Filly and Mare Championship at Lingfield. She was ridden out to a 3 1/2-length win over 13 rivals in that seven-furlong race.

Her next start came at Del Mar for Mandella in a second-level optional-claiming race. Despite having five wins, she was eligible because she had never earned more than $9,716 in a race, except for the Championship at Lingfield.

Living the Life closed stoutly in her Del Mar debut to win by 1 1/2 lengths under Smith, encouraging Mandella to step her up dramatically in company in the Presque Isle Masters.

Despite dwindling synthetic opportunities in the U.S., she has made the most of her chances. Living the Life came to the U.S. with earnings of $191,000 but in two starts has increased that amount to $479,000. Her career record now stands at 21-7-4-2.