10/12/2013 7:52PM

Santa Anita: Qiaona rallies to take California Distaff Handicap

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Benoit & Associates
Qiaona, ridden by Corey Nakatani, goes from last to first in the California Distaff.

ARCADIA, Calif. – A ground-saving ride by jockey Corey Nakatani aboard Qiaona led to an upset win for the 3-year-old filly in Saturday’s $100,500 California Distaff Handicap at Santa Anita.

Qiaona rallied from last of seven California-bred fillies and mares through the stretch and won by a half-length over pacesetter Ismene.

“He saved ground off the turn, and that’s why we won,” trainer Ed Moger Jr. said of Nakatani.

Qiaona ($19.60) ran about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course in 1:11.66. Qiaona caught Ismene in the final sixteenth. Bella Viaggia, the 9-10 favorite, could only finish third, followed by Mia Lady, Tasty Treat, Pahiatua, and Dancingtothestars.

Bella Viaggia raced behind horses in early stretch. Jockey Gary Stevens pulled Bella Viaggia to the outside for running space with a furlong remaining, but the filly was unable to gain sufficient ground.

Qiaona, who races for Curt and Lila Lanning, made her first start against older fillies and mares in the California Distaff. She won the $300,000 California Breeders’ Champion Stakes for 3-year-old fillies here in January and an optional claimer on turf for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar in August.

By Wilko, Qiaona has won 4 of 15 starts and earned $439,994.