Celestine imperious in Just a Game

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

June 11th, 2016

Pope Celestine V abdicated in 1294, and when Tepin abdicated her Just a Game (G1) throne in favor of Tuesday’s Queen Anne (G1) at Royal Ascot, ironically it was the turf filly named Celestine who seized the crown.

Spread-eagling what appeared to be a competitive $700,000 renewal, the 7-1 chance bolted up by 3 3/4 lengths and flirted with Elusive Quality’s course record for the mile on a very firm Widener turf. Celestine zipped in 1:31.64, just an eyelash off the mark of 1:31.63, to hand Hall of Famer Bill Mott his second Grade 1 score of the day after Carina Mia in the Acorn (G1).

Celestine broke on top, but when La Berma flashed speed, jockey Junior Alvarado conceded the lead and got Celestine to settle in a tracking second. After the front runner reeled off fractions of :23.36, :46.13 and 1:09.63, Celestine accosted her turning into the stretch, and the race was over. The daughter of Scat Daddy careered away to reward her loyalists with a $17 win payout.

The 7-2 Recepta parlayed an inside trip into runner-up honors by a length from Mrs McDougal, who went off as the slight 7-2 favorite. Lady Laura, running in foal to Uncle Mo, was a game fourth to give Mott both ends of the superfecta. Next came Faufiler, Prize Exhibit, Rainha Da Bateria, Strike Charmer, La Berma, Lexie Lou, Tapitry, Irish Rookie (who sweated up badly beforehand) and My Miss Sophia.

James A. Bryan Jr.’s Celestine is now a perfect three-for-three over the Widener course, with prior victories in the 2015 Wait a While and Wild Applause. She was coming off a hitherto career-best win in the April 2 Honey Fox (G2) at Gulfstream Park. Her record includes placings in the Tropical Park Oaks and Sand Springs, as well as a score in Gulfstream’s Sanibel Island for original trainer Bill Kaplan. The 4-year-old has earned $784,755 from her 12-6-2-1 line.

Quotes from NYRA

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott on Celestine: "This was a very impressive. She's gotten better as time goes on. She just drew away from a very good field. She's pretty fast.

"We were one-hundredth of a second slower than the course record of Elusive Quality, who I also trained. That was a world record at the time.

"I don't know what's next for her. I haven't looked past tomorrow." 

On beating a high quality field even though champion turf mare Tepin and Miss Temple City are at Ascot: "They might be lucky they were over there today."

Winning rider Junior Alvarado: "It was a dream trip. With this kind of filly, she has speed and she can stalk a little bit, too. As soon as she broke, she broke very beautifully and after that I was just sitting on her. I waited until we turned for home to ask her. I couldn't ask for a better trip than that. It was like everything was just going perfect.

"I was expecting that because she was good. The first three strides when I asked her to run, I said, 'This is over.' There was no way any horse could be running faster than her. I just got her home. She just carried me all the way to the wire today."

Photo courtesy NYRA/Adam Coglianese.