08/26/2012 5:12PM

Monmouth: Closing Range noses out Zucchini Flower in Twin Lights

David Owens/Equi-Photo
Closing Range, with Chris DeCarlo aboard, holds off Zucchini Flower (5) in the Twin Lights Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Closing Range battled back to edge Zucchini Flower by a nose on Sunday in the $60,800 Twin Lights Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf.

Dancing Solo, the 1-2 favorite, was third.

The victory was a happy Monmouth Park homecoming for trainer Phil Oliver, a longtime fixture on this circuit. Now based at Keeneland, Oliver opted to give Closing Range her first stakes experience after the daughter of After Market won two of three starts in the Midwest.

Closing Range made the long journey worthwhile with a game effort.

Breaking alertly with Chris DeCarlo aboard, Closing Range set a moderate pace with Zucchini Flower a constant presence to her outside.

Dancing Solo, winner of the Grade 3 Boiling Springs and the Little Silver Stakes earlier in the meet, was a menacing presence in the pocket right behind the leaders.

Midway on the final turn, jockey Joe Bravo swung Dancing Solo off the fence and, for a moment, she appeared poised to sweep right on by.

This time, Dancing Solo lacked her usual kick. She ran evenly through the lane but could not catch the top two.

Closing Range kept right on fighting, even after Zucchini Flower briefly poked her head in front in the final sixteenth of a mile. She battled back under left-handed urging from DeCarlo, drifting out to create some mild stretch contact. Elvis Trujillo aboard Zucchini Flower claimed foul.

The stewards quickly dismissed the objection.

“Elvis put a head on me at the sixteenth pole but when he didn’t draw away, my filly really dug in and fought hard,” DeCarlo said. “It was just good racing riding at the end. I came out to him a little bit and he came down to me, so it was like 50-50.”

Oliver will take the Closing Range back to Kentucky before deciding on her next start. He mentioned the Grade 3 Pucker Up at Arlington on Sept. 15 as a possibility.

“She shipped here a long way and we were kind of taking a shot,” Oliver said. “She’s really done nothing wrong and we thought she deserved it. At the sixteenth pole, I thought we were going to be third but she really dug in and held her ground.”

Closing Range paid $11.40 to win as the second choice. She ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.84 over the firm course.

Senator Beck was fourth followed by Raro and Double Berg.

Trainer Graham Motion scratched Ski Holiday, going with Zucchini Flower as his lone Twin Lights entrant. Ski Holiday, third most recently in the Virginia Oaks, is entered in a first-level allowance on Wednesday night at Penn National as the 3-1 morning line favorite.