05/26/2012 4:18PM

Parx racing: Winning Image prevails in hard-fought My Juliet

Barbara Weidl/EQUI-PHOTO
Winning Image digs in under jockey Jose Caraballo to win the My Juliet.

Winning Image got loose on the lead, then had to repel challenges from three rivals in deep stretch to score a narrow victory in Saturday’s $150,000 My Juliet Stakes at Parx Racing.

Sent off as the fourth choice in a field of five fillies and mares, the 5-year-old Winning Image ($12.20) broke fastest of all from the rail under Jose Caraballo and despite ducking in slightly leaving the chute, forged a two-length advantage in the opening quarter-mile, run in 22.15 seconds, of the six-furlong My Juliet.

Nicole H, the narrow favorite at 8-5, appeared poised to put away the pacesetter when she moved to within a head of Winning Image after a half-mile in 44.49.

In midstretch, 9-5 second choice C C’s Pal surged along the rail and Derwin’s Star, the 7-2 third choice, threatened on the outside. The four horses were nearly on even terms in deep stretch before Winning Image dug down and drew clear to prevail by three-quarters of a length, completing the distance in 1:09.46.

In a three-way photo for second, C  C’s Pal nosed out Derwin’s Star, who in turn was a nose in front of Nicole H.

It was the second straight stakes win for Winning Image, a daughter of Southern Image trained by Michael Aro for owner Martin Scaridi. She was making her first start since leading wire to wire in the 6  1/2-furlong Langhorne on March  27.

The win, her seventh in 15 lifetime starts, also enabled Winning Image to turn the tables on Nicole H, who beat her by a neck on New Year’s Day in the Interborough at Aqueduct. The $90,000 winner’s share of the purse raised Winning Image’s bankroll to $273,005.

Nicole H, a five-time stakes winner, was sent off as the narrow choice on the basis of her two stakes wins in New York early this year and a runner-up effort by a neck in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap. The New York-based Nicole H, ridden for the first time by Stewart Elliott, was conceding two pounds to Winning Image as the 124-pound highweight. She came into the My Juliet off a fourth-place finish in last month’s Grade 2 Distaff, a seven-furlong race at Aqueeuct.