10/03/2010 8:19PM

Rigoletta outduels Tell a Kelly to upset Oak Leaf at 32-1

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Benoit & Associates
Rigoletta outfinishes Tell a Kelly in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes on Sunday at Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Rigoletta found circumstances to her liking in early stretch of Sunday’s $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes at Hollywood Park. She was in a duel with the heavily favored Tell a Kelly toward the end of a Grade 1 race over 1 1/16 miles.

To jockey David Flores, the scenario was ideal for Rigoletta, even as the heavily favored Tell a Kelly loomed alongside.

“She was in the bridle the whole way,” Flores said of Rigoletta. “It looked like [Tell a Kelly] would squeeze through there, but my filly was game. It got her into the race more.”

The battle helped Rigoletta into the winner’s circle in a 32-1 upset and had trainer Dan Hendricks talking about a start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.

Rigoletta ($67.40) won her first stakes in the Oak Leaf Stakes, finishing in 1:44.03. She was the highest-priced winner in the 42-year history of the race.

Rigoletta was always near the front. She stalked Indian Gracey through an early pace of 23.70 and 47.50 seconds and was second on the turn. Rigoletta was three wide entering the stretch, with Indian Gracey on the inside and Tell a Kelly fighting her way between fillies.

At the eighth pole, Rigoletta was third, trailing Indian Gracey by a length. Indian Gracey faded from contention in the final furlong, leaving the race to Rigoletta and Tell a Kelly. Rigoletta, racing on the outside, fought off Tell a Kelly to win by a half-length.

Tell a Kelly, the 1-2 favorite, finished a length clear of Indian Gracey, who was 8 1/4 lengths clear of fourth-place finisher Izshelegal. True Way of Grace, Alienation, and Pacific Pride also ran.

Rigoletta races for Thor-Bred Stable and has won 2 of 4 starts and $210,820. After finishing fifth in her debut here in July, she beat maidens at Del Mar in August and was third, beaten 6 3/4 lengths, by Tell a Kelly in the Grade 1 Darley Debutante on Sept. 4.

Earlier in the week, Hendricks said he was anxious to try Rigoletta around two turns, hoping she would improve. After Sunday’s race, he and the owners faced a decision on whether to supplement Rigoletta to the Breeders’ Cup program.

“My vote is to run,” Hendricks said.