Take Charge Paula holds firm to win Smart Halo Stakes

Take Charge PaulaTake Charge Paula won a pace battle and just lasted over the closing Caught Dream’n to win the $100,000 Smart Halo Stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday at Laurel Park.

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Take Charge Paula was part of a three-horse speed duel with Vertrazzo and Tarawa, the trio setting splits of 22.33 and 46.29 seconds. Tarawa caved, but Vertrazzo stayed on gamely, Take Charge Paula finally taking her measure in the final half-furlong as Caught Dream’n’s late outside run fell just short of the winner.

Chris DeCarlo, the jockey on fourth-place Pacific Gale, lodged an objection against Paco Lopez on Take Charge Paula, alleging interference in upper stretch, and the stewards also posted an inquiry into the incident. But it was actually Vertrazzo who was drifting out, coming into Take Charge Paula’s path as Pacific Gale, just behind that pair and inside another horse, was briefly short of room.

“[Vertrazzo] did bother us a little, but the filly was pretty game,” said Kelly Breen, who trains Take Charge Paula for Bruce Tallisman.

Caught Dream’n, beaten a head, was three-quarters of a length better than Vertrazzo, who held well for a 21-1 shot. Take Charge Paula ($7.40) was the 5-2 second choice behind the narrowly favored Pacific Gale. Jehozacat, who also was 5-2, had a good spot on the inside and just behind the speed but lacked a stretch punch and finished fifth.

By Take Charge Indy and out of the Songandaprayer mare Perfect Paula, Take Charge Paula won for the third time in five starts. She flopped when tried around two turns in the Pocahontas at Churchill but has three wins and a second in her one-turn tries.

• The odds-on My Magician won the $75,000 Geisha Stakes for older Maryland-bred fillies and mares by 2 1/4 lengths. Jomar Torres rode My Magician for the Euro Stable and trainer Claudio Gonzalez, who claimed My Magician for $25,000 on May 17 and now have won three times – including two stakes – from five starts with the 5-year-old mare, a daughter of Street Magician and My Rib, by Partner’s Hero. My Magician ($3.40) ran a one-turn mile in 1:37.40. Moon Virginia was second, with Lucky Malibu third.