Gender Agenda breaks through in Frankel, but Belvoir Bay steals the show on the undercard

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December 28th, 2015

Keith Brackpool, Alon Ossip and Timothy Ritvo's Gender Agenda scored a 10-1 upset of Sunday's $101,750 Robert J. Frankel (G3), but a far more memorable performance was turned in by another British import -- 2-year-old filly Belvoir Bay in the Blue Norther on the undercard.

While Belvoir Bay’s race was notionally less significant as a $78,700 listed event, she was a class apart as she bolted up in her first start for Peter Miller, and on Lasix. The 5-1 chance lifted jockey Flavien Prat to his first win since he was sidelined by a bad spill at Los Alamitos in September; he just returned to action on Saturday’s opening day card, and Belvoir Bay gave him quite a “welcome back” gift.

That jaw-dropping performance prompted thoughts of what might have been. The Team Valor International and Gary Barber runner was set to make her U.S. debut in the September 27 Miss Grillo (G3), only to be scratched with filling in an ankle. After missing that prep for a potential Breeders’ Cup bid, she was transferred from Richard Hannon to Hall of Famer Bill Mott. Belvoir Bay was rerouted to the October 31 Chelsea Flower at Belmont Park, where she trudged home ninth, and subsequently joined Miller out west.

But for that late September hiccup, might she have run herself into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1)? And judging by her obliterating stalk-and-pounce routine on Sunday, just how well might she have done at Keeneland? At least co-owner Barber probably isn’t racked by counterfactuals, since he also co-owns Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Catch a Glimpse.

Belvoir Bay broke alertly, but when Sweet Queen was intent on the lead, Prat wrangled his mount back into a tracking second. Although resentful of the restraint through the opening quarter in :22.59, Belvoir Bay was tractable at the half in :47.04, and was in the process of passing the leader at the six-furlong mark in 1:11.93. Scampering clear leaving the far turn, she left the field for dead as she rapidly widened her margin en route to finishing the firm-turf mile in 1:36.15.

Family Meeting, the 7-5 favorite on the strength of her Jimmy Durante (G3) victory, did well to rally from last off the moderate pace for second. But she never got a glimpse of the resounding winner. Sweet Queen salvaged third from Nikki’s Fine Time.

Belvoir Bay’s resume now reads 7-3-1-0, and she more than doubled her earnings to $88,775. A Windsor maiden winner second time out, she later added a nursery during Glorious Goodwood. Her attempts in better company were respectable – sixth of 22 versus the boys in the lucrative Weatherbys Super Sprint and a close fourth in her only British black-type venture, the August 29 Prestige (G3) back at Goodwood.

The daughter of Equiano isn’t likely to stay much beyond a mile, but she can do plenty of damage in this vicinity. Her dam, the Rock of Gibraltar mare Path of Peace, is a half-sister to Cherry Hinton (G2) winner Please Sing, from the immediate family of current Group 3-winning juvenile Great Page (her erstwhile stablemate in the Hannon yard). Belvoir Bay’s second dam is a full sister to Bold Arrangement, runner-up to Ferdinand in the 1986 Kentucky Derby (G1).

Later in the Frankel, Gender Agenda sat in second as 5-2 favorite Glory waltzed through splits of :24.16, :49.17 and 1:14.35. Glory tried to make the most of her cozy trip in her first turf stakes attempt, but she couldn't spurt away from her pursuers down the stretch. Gender Agenda and Rusty Slipper were the nearest on the scene, and the former got on top late to prevail by a neck.

Finishing fastest of all was Stormy Lucy (green shadow roll), who found herself far back after being crowded at the start. The Matriarch (G1) winner had too much to do in a paceless race, and still nearly pulled it off, while toting the co-top weight of 124 pounds. Stormy Lucy was spotting five pounds to Gender Agenda and six to Glory.

Glory was third in the three-way photo, with Rusty Slipper (the other co-highweight) beaten all of a length in fourth. Three Hearts, whose staying profile was unlikely to be suited by a sit-and-sprint, was fifth.

Trained by Carla Gaines and ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Gender Agenda clocked 1 1/8 grassy miles in 1:50.29 and paid $23.80 to win. The 4-year-old by Holy Roman Emperor had been knocking on the door in stakes since arriving on the Southern California circuit last year. Runner-up in the 2014 Unzip Me and Kathryn Crosby, she ended the season with a fourth in the Matriarch. This November, Gender Agenda was third in the Goldikova (G2) and fifth in the Matriarch. The step up to nine furlongs here helped her earn her first black-type victory, and her scorecard stands at 18-5-3-3, $287,095.

Gender Agenda is a half-sister to the English stakes-placed Madame Defarge. Their dam, the unraced Zafonic mare Friendlier, is in turn a half-sister to triple classic queen User Friendly.

Photos courtesy of Benoit.