07/17/2011 6:06PM

Monmouth Park: Lil Kiara outduels Little Stitch in Spruce Fir

David Owens/EQUI-PHOTO
Lil Kiara, under Carlos Marquez Jr., captures the Spruce Fir Handicap for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Little separated the first two finishers in the $65,000 Spuce Fir Handicap on Sunday as Lil Kiara beat Little Stitch by a half- length at Monmouth Park.

Those two were never far apart throughout the mile-and-70-yard feature for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares.

Cee the Country, Lil Kiara, and Little Stitch scrambled for the early lead. Cee the Country won that battle with Little Stitch to her outside and Lil Kiara hugging the rail in third.

When Little Stitch made her move to the lead midway on the final turn, Carlos Marquez Jr. gave Lil Kiara her cue to angle off the fence.

In the stretch, it was a two-horse contest with Lil Kiara prevailing for her fourth win in 16 starts.

“I know she’s a grinder,” Marquez said. “Once she made the lead, her ears went up. She was just kind of waiting.”

The top two were seven lengths clear of third-place finisher Ms Glory Be.

A 4-year-old trained by Cal Lynch, Lil Kiara paid $6 to win while carrying 116 pounds.

“Marquez knows this horse very well,” Lynch said. “I was a little worried when she was up close early, but then he got her to settle down. It all worked according to plan. We sat just off the speed, and when he called on her she came with her run.

The time was 1:42.77

The race opened up with the scratch of Love That Dance, assigned high weight of 125 pounds