ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 14, 2009) – A third-place finish her best showing in four starts since being purchased for a reported $1 million last June, Santa Teresita put a positive spin on Southern Equine Stable’s investment Saturday when scoring a dramatic13-1 upset in Santa Anita’s Grade I, $300,000 Santa Maria Handicap.

With jockey Joe Talamo winning his third straight race, Santa Teresita took the lead from pacesetter Briecat on the far turn and steadily widened her lead to 2 ½ lengths over Marzelline and Model, who dead-heated for second in the mile-and-one-sixteenth event for fillies and mares.

The final time was 1:41.88 as the victorious 5-year-old daughter of Lemon Drop Kid registered her first graded stakes win after six successive fruitless attempts.

“She just had a beautiful trip,” said Talamo. “She’s a stalking kind of filly, and I was able to keep her relaxed outside of the one (rail-sitter Briecat), and that helped her to stay relaxed. At the quarter-pole, I said, ‘Okay, mama, let’s go,’ and she really gave it to me. She was striding out great, and this was a great way to finish up the day.”

Marzelline, with Tyler Baze aboard, got up for second before being caught by the fast-closing Model, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, to share the place. Leah’s Secret, the 5-2 second choice, finished another 2 ¼ lengths back in fourth with Eibar Coa in the saddle.

It was not a memorable Santa Maria for trainer Bobby Frankel, whose entrants had won the past two runnings. Visit, the 3-2 favorite, was never a factor while finishing sixth. Her stablemate in the Frankel barn, Country Star, the 5-1 third choice at the time, flipped in the starting gate. She had to be scratched although she did not appear to be injured.

Santa Teresita paid $28.80, $12, and $7.60. The dead-heat brought some unusual place and show payoffs for the next two finishers. Marzelline paid $9.20 and $9.60. Model returned $3.80 and $4.20.

For trainer Eric Guillot, who has been conditioning horses since 1986, Santa Teresita provided the 47-year-old trainer with his first Grade I victory.

Despite a tenth-place finish in the Grade III Tuzla Handicap, Santa Teresita’s previous start on Jan. 25, Guillot said he was optimistic. The public didn’t share his feelings. The bay mare’s only stakes win had come in Santa Anita’s $78,000 Santa Lucia Handicap, an ungraded stakes race, last April.

“Coming back in three weeks with a race under her belt, she was coming to this race perfect,” said Guillot. “I was pretty high on her today. I thought she’d run big, and she did.”

The trainer said his only instructions to Talamo were not to get “buried on the rail.” “She hates it,” he explained. “She gets rank. But she was so good today. She ran huge.”

Talamo was already familiar with Santa Teresita. He had ridden her twice prior to the sale when she was trained by David Hofmans. He was aboard for the win in the Santa Lucia and a second in Hollywood Park’s Grade II Milady Handicap last May.

For the biggest win of her career, Santa Teresita earned $180,000 for Southern Equine Stable. The result brought her lifetime earnings to $393,430 from a 4-3-2 record in 13 starts.

A pair of graded stakes, the La Canada and Daytona Handicap, are scheduled at Santa Anita on Sunday as part of a three-day holiday weekend. First post is at 12:30 p.m. -30-