ARCADIA, Calif. - A seventh-place finish by Paulina's Love in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks last August was a disappointment at the time, but the loss led to a new approach to her career.
Instead of giving Paulina's Love a month or so between starts, the gap was extended to two months or more. Paulina's Love has made three starts since the Del Mar Oaks, and has won twice, including her first stakes in the $202,070 Buena Vista Stakes for fillies and mares at Santa Anita on Saturday.
Ridden by Gary Stevens, Paulina's Love was always near the front, and held off a late run from 7-2 Stormy Lucy to win by a neck. Paulina's Love ($9.60) ran a mile on turf in 1:36.06.
"She's a specialist at the distance and better when you give her time between races," said David Meah, assistant to trainer Richard Baltas. "Seven or eight weeks between races is the best time for her."
Paulina's Love was greatly helped by having a pace to follow. Moanin, a 20-1 outsider, zoomed to the lead from the outside post in a field of 11 and led by as many as 2-1/2 lengths, setting quick fractions of 22.84 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 46.36 for a half-mile.
Paulina's Love was second or third through the first half-mile, racing about three lengths off the pace. Paulina's Love took the lead with more than a quarter-mile to go, but was challenged by Her Emmynency, the 3-1 favorite.
In early stretch, Paulina's Love scooted clear to lead by 1-1/2 lengths over Her Emmynency, who could not keep pace in her first start since a win in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland last October.
Stormy Lucy, who was ninth early, rallied well to finish a clear second, 1-3/4 lengths clear of 6-1 Keri Belle. Her Emmynency finished fourth, followed by Nashoba's Gold, Prize Exhibit, Theatre Star, Smoove It, Lutine Belle, Stylish in Black, and Moanin.
The Grade 2 Buena Vista was the fifth stakes appearance for Paulina's Love, who was second in the Grade 3 Autumn Miss Stakes here last October.
"She keeps developing and getting better and better," Stevens said. "I rode with a lot of confidence."
Stormy Lucy has finished second by a neck or less in three turf stakes at the current winter-spring meeting.
The losses have been a frustration for trainer Ed Moger Jr., who at the same time acknowledges that Stormy Lucy has raced well each time.
"She's doing so good that I can't complain," Moger said. "I'd like to have won the photo. I think she had dead aim on them. She had a good trip. It was one of those deals."
Paulina's Love has won 4 of 13 starts and earned $304,990. A 4-year-old filly by Mizzen Mast, Paulina's Love is owned by Kenji Morinaga and the Head of Plains Partners.