12/30/2012 8:55PM

Santa Anita: Qaraaba makes going last to first look easy in Frankel

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Benoit & Associates
The European import Qaraaba, ridden by Julien Leparoux, wins her graded stakes debut in the Grade 3 Robert Frankel.

ARCADIA, Calif .- For a closer, Qaraaba’s wins have little drama.

She closed from last to win her U.S. debut in an optional claimer by a comfortable 1 1/2 lengths at Betfair Hollywood Park on Nov. 15. In her graded stakes debut in Sunday’s $150,000 Robert Frankel Stakes at Santa Anita, Qaraaba rallied from last of nine to win the Grade 3 race by 1 1/4 lengths with something in reserve.

Ridden by Julien Leparoux, Qaraaba ($7.20) finished 1 1/8 miles on a good turf course in 1:49.20.

“She put me in the race when I asked her to,” Leparoux said.  “At Hollywood, she won so easily and today she won pretty easy, too. As long as she relaxes, she has a nice kick at the end.”

Qaraaba trailed pacesetter Imperialistic Diva by 6 1/2 lengths in the first half-mile, through fractions of 24.41 and 49.69 seconds. Leparoux did not ask Qaraaba for a run until the end of the backstretch. Moving between fillies on the turn, and four-wide into the stretch, Qaraaba was within 2 1/2 lengths of leader More Chocolate at the eighth pole and took the lead in the final sixteenth.

“When she gets going, she has that great stride,” trainer Simon Callaghan said.

Tiz Flirtatious, the 7-5 favorite who was second in the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park in November, was near the front in the final furlong, and may have led briefly. She held second, finishing 1 1/4 lengths in front of More Chocolate.

Halo Dolly finished fourth, followed by I Dazzle, Camelia Rose, Imperialistic Diva, Hard to Resist, and Vivo Per Lei.

Callaghan trains Qaraaba for Alice Bamford and Michael Tabor. Callaghan also started Camelia Rose and Imperialistic Diva in the Frankel, named for the late Hall of Fame trainer.

Qaraaba, 5, has won 7 of 15 starts and $171,119. In England in 2012, she won four races, all in minor handicaps.

Callaghan said that Qaraaba may have two more starts at the winter-spring meeting – the $150,000 Santa Ana Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf on March 24 and the $150,000 Santa Barbara Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on turf on April 20.