Diva Express, I’m a Looker dead-heat for Winning Colors victory

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Jen Caldwell

May 28th, 2016

I’m a Looker joined Diva Express in the lane of the $100,000 Winning Colors (G3) at Churchill Downs on Saturday, and the duo battled it out all the way to the finish line.

What appeared to be a head-bobbing win for one of the four-year-old fillies instead turned out to be a dead-heat victory for both. The pair stopped the clock in a final time of 1:09.49 for six furlongs over the fast main track.

Diva Express contested the early pace with 4-5 favorite Enchanting Lady, who set the opening half-mile in :21.26 and :44.28. I’m a Looker found herself near the rear of the field after breaking slow, but made her way toward the front up the backstretch.

Enchanting Lady couldn’t keep pace as Diva Express wrested away control, but I’m a Looker was ready to pounce as she angled out four wide circling the turn. She ranged up to Diva Express’ outside and the two duked it out all the way to the wire, which they hit at the same exact moment.

Spelling Again rallied from last, rounding the turn in the five path, to take third, another three parts of a length back. Super Sakes completed the superfecta while 3 1/2 lengths behind Spelling Again but a half-length up on Enchanting Lady. Fioretti and Wrath of Ruthie completed the order of finish.

Diva Express paid $6 for the win at 9-2 while making her stakes bow in this spot. Prior to this one, the Mark Casse-trained daughter of Afleet Express captured a May 3 allowance/optional claimer at Churchill by a head bob over I’m a Looker. She now boasts an 11-4-1-2, $194,945 career record.

I’m a Looker was worth $9.40 at 9-1. Conditioned by Pat Dupuy, she earned her first stakes win here, adding it to a resume that already includes placings in last year’s Raven Run (G3) and Azalea (G3). The chestnut daughter of Henny Hughes improved her line to read 15-3-3-2 and has now banked $180,980.

Diva Express is out of the Mr. Greeley mare Phi Beta Diva and comes from the same female family as Grade 2 victor Time to Explode.

I’m a Looker is out of the unraced Victory Gallop mare Our Mariella, who is a half-sister to the dam of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Dortmund. Her third dam is champion Lakeville Miss.

Earlier on the card, Al’s Gal was the easiest of winners in the $58,550 Keertana S. going 1 1/2 miles on the firm Churchill Downs turf.

The Mike Maker-trained five-year-old grabbed command in the lane of the marathon event and never looked back, drawing away before being geared down late by jockey Florent Geroux, who had been thrown hard just one race prior.

The incident clearly didn’t shake Geroux as he piloted Al’s Gal to stop the clock in 2:28.13. Campaigned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the English Channel mare was sent off the 8-5 favorite following a close half-length second in the Bewitch (G3) at Keeneland on April 29.

Al’s Gal returned $3.40 to her backers while improving her career mark to 22-6-6-3, which also includes a runner-up effort in the Mrs. Penny S., and has now banked $279,855 in lifetime earnings.

Diva Express and I’m a Looker photo courtesy of Churchill Downs/Coady Photography
Al’s Gal photo courtesy of Churchill Downs/Coady Photography


Julien Leparoux, jockey on Diva Express, dead-heat winner: “I thought he (Robby Albarado) beat me. He got in front of me in the stretch. The only thing I knew is that she put her head down at the wire and when it takes that much time to look at the photo you always hope for a dead-heat.

“It was exactly the same race as last time; I was right there and Robby came to me. Last time I beat him by a head and this time we dead-heated. I wasn’t looking at where Robby was during the race but I’m pretty sure we were about at the same spot. I thought I was winner around the far turn. I was doing it very easy and when I asked her she kept coming back for me. Both fillies deserved the win.

“It’s been a great meet so far, now we just have to keep going, knock on wood.”

Norman Casse, assistant trainer of Diva Express, dead-heat winner: “We’re very excited about the win. She’s really trained well so I thought that she would run big and she did. We’re really happy with the win and to share this race with the connections of the other horse. I was under the impression that we got beat but we got our nose down at the right time. It’s great to finally get a stakes victory with her. We’ll check her out in the morning, regroup and see where to go from here.”

Robby Albarado, jockey on I’m a Looker, dead-heat winner: “She ran super. I loved the pace up front and I had a really, really, really good trip. She brought her patented run like she always does – you’ve got to time it good with her. She’d been training really well. She runs off her training, so she was doing really well. She looked good and she was alert in the post parade. She’s a nice filly.”

At what point in the stretch did you think you might win it? “When I saw Julien (Leparoux on Diva Express) was pumping on her just about the whole way and she never had a breather, I thought ‘I’m gonna be the last one runnin’ at her,’ and I was. Maybe in the stretch I thought I’d just draw away from them, but they’re nice fillies. They went nine, nine-and-change – I mean they’re good fillies, both of them.”

Pat Dupuy, trainer of I’m a Looker, dead-heat winner: “She ran a great race and (jockey) Robby (Albarado) rode a great race on her. He saved ground on her. I’m tickled to get the dead-heat.  It looked like she won, but I’ll take it.

“She’s a nice filly. She trained great since the last race and she’s never looked this good. Hopefully she’s got one or two more in her like this.”

Brad Cox, trainer of Spelling Again, third: “She ran well. We were a little disappointed that she wasn’t up in the race a little more (early). That’s just her with dirt hitting her in the face, it wasn’t anything the jockey did. (Shaun Bridgmohan) did a great job riding her. I think if, maybe, she’d been up in the race a little more, it would have been a different story. She was definitely ready to run and she was running back on two weeks rest, but she didn’t handle the dirt in her face at all. Once she got out in the clear coming off the turn and saw clear racetrack, she took off. It was just too little, too late.”

Any thoughts on the next race for Spelling Again? “Honestly, no. One of the reasons I wanted to try this race today is that she was two-for-two on the track and there were not a lot of options during the rest of the meet for her. I wanted to get a race into her over this track. She bounced out of the New York race (third in Ruffian [G2]) in good order, and think that she showed today that she did. We’ll just regroup with her and give her time. We’ll let her tell us when she’s ready to run.”

Florent Geroux, jockey on Enchanting Lady, fifth as the 4-5 favorite: “She broke sharp, so I sent her away from there. She got tired, but when she broke sharp and she got away from there, you don’t to give away what’s given to you.”


Forent Geroux, jockey of Al’s Gal, winner: “It worked out great. She broke very sharply from the gate and from there I was about to take her in good position and from there she showed me a great kick down the lane.”

Mike Maker, trainer of Al’s Gal, winner: “Her last two starts it seemed like she found something that cost her the race every time. I’m glad that she’s finally a stakes winner. She deserves it today. Not sure where we’ll go next, but where ever it is, we’ll be going a mile-and-a-half. On paper I was concerned with the pace. She put Florent (Geroux) in the race and just did her thing.”