01/26/2013 6:17PM

Santa Anita: Qiaona scores upset over rival fillies in California Breeders’ Champion Stakes

Benoit & Associates
Garrett Gomez guides Qiaona to a victory worth $48.60 to her backers in the fillies division of the California Breeders' Champion Stakes.

ARCADIA, Calif. Qiaona started her career in a $25,000 claimer for maidens at Pleasanton last June, finishing third after a slow start. There were clues that day as to what she would accomplish at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Making her third stakes appearance, Qiaona ($48.60) closed nearly 14 lengths in the final quarter-mile to pull off a surprise win over an unlucky Unusual Way in the $300,700 California Breeders’ Champion Stakes for California-bred 3-year-old fillies going a mile.

Through the stretch, jockey Garrett Gomez’s expectations soared. Entering the stretch, Gomez said, “I thought I could hit the board. The last sixteenth they fell apart and she kept to the task.

“It looked like none of them wanted to go two turns,” Gomez said. “They were all coming out of sprints. It looked like it could fall apart.”

Qiaona was 10th in a field of 11 on the backstretch, well behind a pace of 22.72 and 46 seconds set by 12-1 Marks Mine. Qiaona was fifth with a furlong remaining, trailing Marks Mine by eight lengths. Qiaona caught stretch leader Unusual Way in the final 30 yards.

A filly by Wilko, Qiaona was timed in 1:37.75 on a wet-fast track. She earned $165,000 for owners Curt and Lila Lanning and trainer Ed Moger, Jr.

Unusual Way, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Sprint Preview here in November, finished a length in front of Marks Mine, who won the Golden Gate Debutante over six furlongs on Dec. 1.

Doinghardtimeagain, the winner of the Soviet Problem Stakes for California-bred fillies at Betfair Hollywood Park in December, finished fourth as the 2-1 favorite.

Qiaona, who was purchased for $4,500 at the Barretts October Yearling Sale in 2011, has won 2 of 8 starts and $228,010. Qiaona ran in three maiden claimers last summer, with a second at Del Mar her best result in those races. Second in the Barretts Debutante at Fairplex Park last September, Qiaona was sixth in the California Cup Juvenile Fillies here in October.

She won a one-mile turf race for California-bred 2-yeaer-old maiden fillies at Hollywood Park on Dec. 6 in her seventh start, with a move from just off the pace.