ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 30, 2012)—In a finish that the race’s namesake would have relished, English-bred Qaraaba came running from dead last in a field of nine fillies and mares to take Sunday’s Grade III, $150,000 Robert J. Frankel Stakes at Santa Anita, covering 1 1/8 miles on a rain-soaked turf in 1:49.20, while winning in-hand by 1 ¼ lengths under Julien Leparoux.

Last going to the far turn, Qaraaba, trained by Simon Callaghan, sat well off splits of 24.41, 49.69, 1:13.85 and 1:37.66, and was taken four-wide by Leparoux entering the stretch. At that point the race was, for all intents and purposes, over as the 5-year-old mare motored to her first graded stakes victory.

“Simon told me to ride her with a lot of confidence and I did,” said the two-time Eclipse Award-winning Leparoux. “She’s a very handy filly and she relaxed perfectly. As you could see, she won pretty easily and she had a lot left.”

A five-time minor stakes winner in England, Qaraaba was an impressive winner in her U.S. debut, taking a second-condition allowance going 1 1/16 miles on turf at Betfair Hollywood Park on Nov. 15 at odds of 4-5.

“We thought the world of this filly from Day One,” said Callaghan. “She’s special. She’ll get better as she goes further. You need to take her back and get her to relax, no matter what the pace is. Julien did a good job.

The second choice at 5-2 in Sunday’s Frankel, Qaraaba paid $7.20, $4.00 and $2.80. Owned by Michael Tabor and Alice Bamford, Qaraaba banked $90,000 on Sunday and extended her bankroll to $171,119. Her record now stands at 15-7-2-1.

Tiz Flirtatious, one of two California-breds in the Frankel, for fillies and mares three years old and up, ran second with Rafael Bejarano as the 7-5 favorite, 1 ¼ lengths in front More Chocolate and Garrett Gomez.

“I thought she ran well,” said Tiz Flirtatious’ trainer, Marty Jones. “She wasn’t able to save much ground. I never had her on soft ground so I don’t know if she really prefers that or not but she tried. The other filly just ran a little better.”

Tiz Flirtatious, who was keen early, was about two lengths off the lead turning for home but couldn’t kick with the winner, who rallied on the far outside. Tiz Flirtatious paid $3.00 and $2.20.

Third-place finisher More Chocolate sat second early and put a head in front at the top of the stretch, but was third-best, finishing a half-length in front of Halo Dolly and Joe Talamo.

“I thought they were going to have a lot of trouble running by her when we turned for home, but a couple of the other fillies just out-sprinted her,” said More Chocolate’s rider, Gomez. “She ran a really good race.”

More Chocolate, off at 6-1, paid $2.60 to show.

Shortly after his death on Nov. 16, 2009, the San Gorgonio Handicap, which Bobby Frankel won a record eight times, was renamed the Robert J. Frankel Stakes.

Fittingly, Sunday’s Frankel trophy was presented by Humberto Ascanio, who served as Frankel’s chief assistant for more than 30 years. It was Ascanio’s first visit to Santa Anita since suffering a stroke one year ago.

Santa Anita will offer live racing on Monday and Tuesday, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, with first post at 12:30 p.m.