Only in the US can an actress swap the stage for a win at her first ride as a jockey.
Maria Falgione acted in independent films, TV shows and commercials as well as off-Broadway plays before sharply switching careers to become an apprentice jockey.
Falgione had always been around horses on her grandfather's ranch in Nebraska but worked as a track rider for trainer Mike Machowsky, who provided the 38-year-old with her first race ride on Saturday.
Falgione had worked with stewards while refining her technique ahead of her racing debut, which went perfectly as the apprentice guided Tee Em Eye to a 3 ½ length win in a $16,000 claiming race at Del Mar.
"The coolest thing I've ever done in my entire life," Falgione told the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
"The filly was really good to me, she just carried me around there. She was a good girl. I made a few mistakes, got in a little trouble out of the gate and went a little wider than I wanted, but it all worked out."
Machowsky said he had to wait to find the perfect race for Falgione's debut outing.
"It was hard to find the right horse to put her on," Machowsky said. "Apprentices can't ride 2-year-olds or first-time starters until they've won five races. I didn't want her on a horse going two turns her first time out or on the grass.
"This was a good opportunity and it all worked out. I thought she looked good considering it was her first race and all the talent in this jockey colony."
Acting is now a thing of the past for Falgione.
"I really like my job and I love being here and everyone at the racetrack knows that and they made it very special. This is where my heart is now, with the horses," Falgione said.