Al’s Gal holds on from Suffused in E.P. Taylor
Jockey Florent Geroux engineered a typically clever trip aboard the daughter of English Channel, who has tactical speed and stays 1 1/2 miles. Those qualities strongly implied that Al’s Gal should go forward in a 1 1/4-mile E.P. Taylor without a great deal of pace on tap, and Geroux did just that.
As Germany’s Parvaneh took up the front-running role, Al’s Gal shadowed her through slow fractions of :26.05, :49.83, 1:13.75 and 1:37.93 on the firm turf. Geroux produced the 6-1 at the top of the stretch, and her resolve carried her the rest of the way. French raider Banzari, also sensibly placed early, emerged as a threat, until Juddmonte homebred Suffused knifed between foes to challenge. But Al’s Gal reached grimly for the wire and got her nose down in 2:01.60, furnishing her backers with $14.30 to win.
“There was no traffic for me today,” Geroux said. “When we broke from the gate I was right there, second position all the way and when I asked her turning from home she just gave me a nice turn of foot and was very brave.
“I don’t have any game plan especially with horses like this who are very manageable and have tactical speed.”
“I wish I could have been in the clear before,” Suffused’s rider, Jose Ortiz lamented, “but I followed the winner the whole way. It was very close in the end. I thought I had it but I guess the head bob went to him.”
Suffused edged a half-length clear of Banzari, who saved third by a head from the wide-closing Guapaza. Too far back off the pace, Guapaza excelled to finish that close. Chad Brown’s shorter priced hope, Rainha da Bateria, came next in the blanket finish. Aidan O’Brien’s 3-1 favorite, Best in the World, dropped back tamely to trail the field of 12.
Al’s Gal, a $35,000 claim at Gulfstream Park in February 2015, has improved out of recognition this term. In addition to her half-length loss in the Beverly D., the five-year-old placed second in the Bewitch (G3) and Modesty (G3) and won Churchill Downs’ Keertana and the September 15 Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon. She’s now bankrolled $749,775 from her 26-8-8-3 line.
Bred by Malone Racing in Pennsylvania, Al’s Gal sold thrice at public auction – for $50,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November weanling, $30,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, and $50,000 as a two-year-old in training back at Keeneland the following April. She is a full sister to Grade 3-placed stakes winner Ann of the Dance, and a three-quarter sister to Brazilian Group 2 scorer May Be Now (by Smart Strike). Their dam, the Chilean-bred Winning mare Dans La Ville, is in turn a full sister to Las Oaks (G1) victress Santona (dam of Grade 3 winner Grand Hombre).
The $234,205 Nearctic (G2) was all about the home team, as the past two Sovereign Award-winning sprinters, Calgary Cat and Stacked Deck, fought out the tight finish over 9-5 favorite Conquest Enforcer.
The 15-1 Calgary Cat rolled from the tail of the field to head the 9-2 Stacked Deck in a final time of 1:08.32 for six grassy furlongs. Trained by Kevin Attard and galvanized in the nick of time by Luis Contreras, Calgary Cat sparked a $33.90 win payout. Stacked Deck, who chased the quick pace, did well to hang around and come up just short.
Sophomore Conquest Enforcer was another head back between them, and Full Mast was a staying-on fourth. British shipper Divine tired after stalking in tandem with Stacked Deck and checked in sixth.
Although this marked Calgary Cat’s first turf stakes victory, the Cowtown Cat gelding had finished a close third in the 2014 Nearctic during his Sovereign Award campaign. He won that season’s Bold Venture (G3) and Kennedy Road (G2), but was dethroned in the 2015 renewals by his successor as Canada’s sprint champion of 2015, Stacked Deck. Calgary Cat was coming off a fourth to the same rival in his title defense in the September 11 Ontario Jockey Club. Also the winner of the 2015 Jacques Cartier and the last two runnings of the Achievement, the six-year-old has compiled a mark of 27-12-4-3, $860,521.
“I’ve been kind of telling the owners that I haven’t been quite as happy with his performances on the synthetic,” Attard said of Calgary Cat’s recent outings.
“He’s been working really well, training super and his performance on the synthetic hasn’t been what we’ve expected. His race at Saratoga (a close fifth in the Troy two back) was tremendous.
“It was his first time going 5 1/2 (on turf). He came flying at the end. He’s worked into this race really well. We were expecting a good performance out of him.”
The day’s opening stakes event, the $132,168 Ontario Fashion (G3), went to Sam-Son Farm’s homebred Southern Ring with an assist from Eurico Rosa da Silva.
Ideally positioned early, drafting just behind the contested pace, the Malcom Pierce trainee swept to the fore in the stretch. Defending champion Cactus Kris, the 2-1 favorite, and River Maid launched their bids from further back, but Southern Ring had stolen a march on them and held by three-quarters of a length. The 5-2 second choice sped six furlongs on the Tapeta in 1:08.65 and paid $7.
Southern Ring, who earned her first stakes win in the Ruling Angel on this same weekend last year, had not raced since her fourth in the grassy Zadracarta on July 1.
“She’s been a special filly all along,” Pierce said. “We were really aiming at the Royal North (G3) with her a month or so ago and she got a little injury in the stall. It was nothing, but we just couldn’t run on that day. She trained into this race perfectly and she showed up today.”
The Ontario-bred four-year-old is by Speightstown and out of 2003 Bison City winner Seeking the Ring, herself a full sister to Canadian champion Catch the Ring. Southern Ring’s scorecard stands at 6-4-1-0, $216,829.
Photo courtesy WEG/Michael Burns Photography