VIVA CARINA LIKES IT ON LEAD, TAKES FRIDAY’S $58,000 RIO GRANDE PURSE AT 1 ¼ MILES ON TURF BY HALF LENGTH

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 15, 2013)—Argentine-bred Viva Carina, a solid fourth in the Grade III Autumn Miss Stakes at a mile on turf Oct. 27, tested the deep waters of a mile and a quarter Friday and relished the conditions, dominating eight rivals with a gate to wire, half length win in the $58,000 Rio Grande Purse under Victor Espinoza, getting the distance in 2:00.11.

“It wasn’t easy because you have to really ride this horse to keep her going,” said Espinoza. “I started riding her as we came to the half mile pole and I rode her all the way to the finish. She’ll run all day, but you have to stay after her.”

A well-beaten fifth at 1 1/16 miles on the main track Jan. 17, Viva Carina was the third choice in today’s field of nine, off at odds of 5-1.

“When we work her in front of a horse, she works good,” said winning trainer A.C. Avila. “When she is behind, she doesn’t run. That’s why I picked this race, the long distance, I thought would help her calm down and stay out front since it wouldn’t be so fast (the pace). I like the way she ran.”

Owned by Coudelaria Jessica, Viva Carina paid $12.80, $7.80 and $3.60. With the winner’s share of $34,800, her earnings now stand at $108,220. She now has two win and a second-place finish from seven career starts.

Longshot The Only Key, off at 27-1, sat second to the winner the entire trip and held gamely under Kevin Krigger to finish second, a head in front of Warren’s Got Game and Rafael Bejarano.

The Only Key paid $21.20 and $9.20.

Warren’s Got Game, the second choice at 2-1, rallied late to finish third, 1 ½ lengths in front of Elegant and Mario Gutierrez.

Warren’s Got Game paid $3.00 to show.

Spring Bloom, the 8-5 favorite with Joe Talamo, sat a good stalking trip and came up empty in the drive, finishing fifth.

The Grade II Santa Maria Stakes for older fillies and mares, will highlight a 10-race program at Santa Anita on Saturday. First post time is 12:30 p.m. For more racing information, visit www.santaanita.com.