Spackman Racing and Lin Melton’s Maggie Durant continued her strong campaign by picking up her fifth win of the year while taking the $30,600 Merial California Distaff Challenge in a hard-fought race on Saturday at Los Alamitos. The win earns Maggie Durant a starting ticket in the $125,000 Merial Distaff Challenge to be held here on Saturday, October 29.
Maggie Durant had been knocking on the door of a stakes win for a while now. The Idaho-bred filly by One Sweet Jess finished second to the razor sharp Jess Ravin in the La Pacifica Handicap and was also the runner-up to multiple stakes winner Nymph in the Emma Bug Handicap. The Merial California was her moment to shine, as the 3-year-old defeated older mares after breaking quickly from post seven and then flying to the wire to post a nose victory over the Bill Hoburg-trained Flyin Lion. Ridden by Carlos Huerta, Maggie Durant covered the 400 yards in :19.958.
“That was like the old days,” Melton said. “Hoburg and I used to race head to head in a lot of races.”
Melton was referring to the great matchups many of his horses had against runners trained by Hoburg in the Great Northwest. As for Maggie Durant, this was just another top efforts from a filly that has risen in stature in 2016.
“She’s a little pro,” Melton added. “She gets better and better. She’s run one bad race in her whole life. She’s game. She had a bad race on California Night got knocked around we let her regroup herself and came into this race really sharp. We didn’t do much with her. (Flyin Lion) tried to catch her on the outside, but Carlos said she dug back in and wouldn’t let her. We’ll probably run her once. Not a lot because we’ve run her pretty steadily. She likes to run. She runs better when she run a lot. We’re pretty happy with her.”
Bred by Spackman Racing, Maggie Durant earned $14,382 for the win to take her lifetime earnings to $47,674. A winner in five of 13 starts, Maggie Durant has hit the board in 12 of those outings. Her only out of the money finish, like Melton indicated, came when she bumped at the break and finished ninth in the Debutante Stakes on July 30.
Mike and Sherry Reardon’s Flyin Lion ran fifth in the Merial final at Lone Star Park this year and nearly secured a return trip to this race thanks to her game effort. Ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala, the 6-year-old Washington-bred daughter of Panther Mountain earned $6,120 for her effort. Dawna and Delra Talbot’s Kissin Kate Barlow finished third. Political Chick, Tallulah Moon, KR Cruisin Cartel, Shoulda Kissed Me, Miss Racy Fire and Million Dollar Kiss completed the field. KR Cruisin Cartel was vanned off after falling down past the wire. Her rider, Rodolfo Arvizu, returned to the jockey’s room later in the evening according to reports.