ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 19, 2012) – Favored Meltarib, who seems to have found her niche routing over grass surfaces, traveled widest of all throughout Thursday’s featured $59,050 Hotel California Purse at Santa Anita, but nonetheless prevailed in a four-horse blanket finish in the one-mile turf allowance event for California-bred or sired fillies and mares.

“I just love her,” said jockey Alonso Quinonez after crossing the wire in 1:34.97. “She’s got a small body, but a great big heart. She gives you everything. We had the worst trip possible, but she still wins.”

The 5-year-old daughter of Muqtarib, owned and bred by Marianne Millard, rallied along the outside fence to score by a head over Arrivederci Caro. Ruffled Feathers finished another half-length back to nose out second-choice Sunburn for the show.

It was just the ninth career start for the gray mare trained by Victor Garcia, but Meltarib has finished in-the-money in eight of those races despite winning but once previously. She broke her maiden going one mile on turf last May at Hollywood Park. Meltarib lost by a nose another time when routing on grass. She was third in her only other try at the trip.

With the rails set inward at 30 feet, the turf course on Thursday was narrowed significantly with the Hotel California limited to eight starters. Breaking from post position No. 7, Quinonez never was able to maneuver Meltarib into an inside position. She seemed to be hugging the outer fence the entire journey.

As the 2-1 favorite, she paid $6.40, $3.80 and $2.60. Arrivederci Caro, ridden by Hector Berrios, returned $7.40 and $4.60. Ruffled Feathers, with Martin Pedroza aboard, paid $3.60 to show. The winning purse of $34,800 elevated Meltarib’s career earnings to $117,320 from a 2-3-3 record in her nine starts.

“This mare’s mother (Airmel) could really run,” commented Millard, “but she got hurt in the starting gate and we couldn’t go on with her. This is her first foal to get to the races.” Meltarib’s owner-breeder noted that Airmel is a daughter of Melair, her great roan filly of the mid-eighties.

Santa Anita presents a program of eight races on Friday with first post at 1 p.m.