ARCADIA, Calif. (April 20, 2013)—Lady of Shamrock, the prohibitive 1-5 favorite with leading rider Rafael Bejarano aboard in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 Santa Barbara Handicap, took up sharply in deep stretch, finishing second, beaten 1 ½ lengths by longshot Viva Carina and Victor Espinoza, but was subsequently placed first via a stewards’ inquiry.

Last early in the five-horse Santa Barbara, for older fillies and mares at 1 ¼ miles on turf, Lady of Shamrock, trained by John Sadler, was full of run at the rail turning for home and had dead aim on pacesetting Viva Carina, but had to take up sharply a sixteenth of a mile out, costing her a chance at victory.

“I don’t think he (Espinoza) knew I was there,” said Bejarano. “I tried to come running but I also wasn’t screaming and (I) didn’t let him know. He was surprised, it wasn’t his fault. His filly just kept coming in. I tried to sneak through there…When I saw the opportunity on the rail in the stretch and I saw a lot of room, I just kept running but unfortunately when Victor used the right-hand stick, his horse kept coming in and completely crossed my lane.

“I was completely on her heels so I didn’t have any choice but to hold my horse and stop riding a little, and then let her go again.”

Although heavily favored, Lady of Shamrock was faced with a tall order around the far turn, as Viva Carina had cut out a slow pace of 25.17, 49.98, 1:14.41 and 1:37.92. Off at 8-1, Viva Carina hit the wire as the unofficial winner in 2:00.91.

The race high weight with 123 pounds, Lady of Shamrock spotted eight pounds to Viva Carina and paid $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10.

“She’s gotten very relaxed this year, so it’s pretty scary,” said Sadler of Lady of Shamrock. “She wants to sit back and close and she had to give away a lot of weight on top of it, so I’m going to go out and find her a rabbit (next time).

“He (Bejarano) had her rolling and it looked like she had room and he was going to get there, so I thought it was the right call…so we’re going to take it.”

Owned by Kosta Hronis’ Hronis Racing LLC, Lady of Shamrock picked up $90,000 for the win, boosting her earnings to $825,400. Second as the even money favorite in the Grade II Santa Ana Stakes March 24, Lady of Shamrock improved her overall record to 13-7-2-1.

The Santa Barbara marked the 11th win of the meet for Hronis Racing, and for the second year in a row, Hronis Racing LLC is Santa Anita’s leading winter/spring owner by races-won.

“We’re very honored to be part of the industry and proud to be leading owner again,” said Hronis. “We’re very happy.”

Trained by A.C. Avila, Viva Carina paid $4.20 and $2.80.

Not surprisingly, Espinoza was not in agreement with stewards Scott Chaney, Kim Sawyer and Tom Ward.

“I tightened up a little bit but I don’t think that caused any change of place in (Bejarano’s) horse,” said Espinoza. “I my opinion, I win the race. There was no way he was going to beat me. The stewards get paid to make these decisions, so I cannot tell them what to do, or predict what they will do.”

English-bred Caelis, with Joe Talamo up, was the longest shot in the field at 12-1 and finished third, 2 ½ lengths behind Viva Carina. Caelis paid $3.40 to show.

Run as the fourth race on Saturday’s nine-race program, the Santa Barbara was contested for the 76th time on Saturday and was one of two graded stakes on the card. The Grade III San Simeon Stakes will be run as race eight.

Sunday is closing day for the 2012-13 winter/spring meet at Santa Anita. The Grade II, 1 ¾ miles turf San Juan Capistrano Handicap will highlight a nine-race program. First post time is 12:30 p.m.