Dacita makes winning U.S. debut in Ballston Spa: the next turf star for Chad Brown?
Saturday's $400,000 Ballston Spa (G2) at Saratoga wasn't one of the days four "Win and You're In" races for the Breeders' Cup, but it could end up having a bearing on the Filly & Mare Turf (G1) picture. Chilean champion Dacita, anchored near the rear for much of the way, suddenly caught fire late and mugged Tepin at the wire to make a winning U.S. debut. A market drifter who went off at 7-1 after ranking as the 7-2 second choice on the morning line, the Chad Brown trainee forced her head in front in a snappy 1:39.67 for 1 1/16 miles on the firm Mellon turf.
Dacita was returning from a nearly nine-month layoff in this spot, and a touch of ring-rustiness may have been in play early. Under Javier Castellano, who was fresh off guiding Keen Ice to his upset win over American Pharoah in the Travers (G1), the Scat Daddy filly raced well back as Kitten's Queen carved out fractions of :23.77, :47.35 and 1:10.78.
Tepin, the 8-5 favorite, looked well placed in close attendance, and when pouncing at the head of the lane, she looked well on her way to her third graded score of the season. Meanwhile, Dacita appeared to be going nowhere until the final 70 yards or so. But once she began to gain momentum, Dacita soon kicked into overdrive in a taking performance.
Indeed, Tepin ran her race and just got caught. Her resume coming into the Ballston Spa is what makes Dacita's victory so appealing. Remember that Tepin started the year three-for-three, including victories in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) and Just a Game (G1), and she was coming off a heroic near-miss in the nine-furlong Diana (G1). The slight cutback in trip to 1 1/16 miles figured to be perfect for her. And so it was, until the final strides.
My Miss Sophia finished third, with Kitten's Queen tiring to fourth. Their presence at the bottom rungs of the exotics gives a solid look to the form as well: Kitten's Queen and My Miss Sophia were the respective third and fourth in the Diana.
When you factor in that the Diana winner, Hard Not to Like, had previously taken the Gamely (G1) at Santa Anita, you can see just how strong this interlocking form shapes up.
Considering that Dacita has won emphatically over as far as 1 1/4 miles in her homeland, when last seen landing the December 8 Las Oaks (G1), she's got no distance qualms about the 1 3/16-mile Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Keeneland. And she is Breeders' Cup eligible.
That would be a sweet turn of events for a trainer and co-owners whose leading light, Lady Eli, is sidelined by laminitis. Dacita races for the partnership of Sheep Pond Partners (Lady Eli's owners) and Bradley Thoroughbreds.
The champion two-year-old filly on the Chilean turf, Dacita captured the Premio Arturo Lyon Pena (G1), Premio Julio Subercaseaux Browne (G3) and the Premio Cotejo de Potrancas (G3) during her freshman campaign. She kicked off her three-year-old season with an effortless score in the Premio Polla de Potrancas (G1). Dacita was an honorable fourth versus males in the El Ensayo (Chilean Derby) (G1) prior to her second classic success in the Oaks.
With a sterling career mark of 10-7-1-1, Dacita has a lot of upside on the U.S. turf.
Quotes courtesy of NYRA:
Trainer Chad Brown: "This filly ran terrific. She's been a little difficult to figure out in the morning. She's a good looking filly. She came into my barn in good shape. She's been steady in her works. I figured maybe she would need a race actually coming in here. It looked like a good spot to get her started because of the distance, timing, and turf. I thought Javier would fit her. Thankfully it just set up for us. They got up in time. I'm very pleased with the effort."
Jockey Javier Castellano: "It was a good trip; I saved a lot of ground on the first turn. It's her first time racing in the country and I put her in the clear and let her roll and she showed up. It was my first time on this filly, and I'm glad Mr. Brown gave me this assignment. She finished strong. The horses from Chile are usually good closers, and I'm glad it worked great today."
Photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography.