Photo Call upsets Rodeo Drive, but can she buck race's history in BC Filly & Mare Turf?

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

September 27th, 2015

Santa Anita's 1 1/4-mile prep -- whether under its old moniker of the Yellow Ribbon or its current name of the $300,000 Rodeo Drive (G1) -- has yet to produce a winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). That's the pretty daunting stat that faces Photo Call, who burst through between foes to upset Saturday's "Win and You're In" for the Filly & Mare Turf. In the process, the 8-1 chance extended the sway of European supersire Galileo to the U.S. West Coast.

Going into the Rodeo Drive, attention had logically focused on East Coast shipper Hard Not to Like, in search of her third straight Grade 1 coup. The heroine of the May 25 Gamely (G1) in her last foray to California, the Christophe Clement mare had since captured the Diana (G1) at Saratoga. Although she had yet to attempt 1 1/4 miles, her potent late kick suggested that she'd handle the step up in trip. Bettors accordingly sent her off as the 8-5 favorite.

Somewhat lost in the shuffle was the other East Coast shipper, Photo Call, from the barn of Graham Motion. The four-year-old entered on the upswing, fresh off her first stakes score in the August 29 Violet (G3) at Monmouth, and continued her upward mobility here.

The two Easterners raced in tandem early, but while Photo Call was a relaxed fourth, covered up on the inside, Hard Not to Like was pulling on the outside. The favorite's failure to relax was a harbinger of doom, for she never picked up. That was evident before any potential stamina issue came into play. She was beaten and retreating before they'd gone nine furlongs, and she trudged home eighth. In the circumstances, the Rodeo Drive proved nothing about her ability to get the trip. And regardless, from a Breeders' Cup perspective, the Hard Spun mare wouldn't have to get this trip. The Filly & Mare Turf at Keeneland is 1 3/16 miles, just a tad longer than her barnstorming wins in the Gamely and Diana.

Of greater concern is the fact that this was Hard Not to Like's worst race in nearly two years. Can she bounce back in five weeks' time, or has her early aggressiveness here signaled that she's on the down side of the parabola? This is quite a reverse for the nation's erstwhile hottest older turf distaffer.

Photo Call's only concern in the Rodeo Drive was finding room. Saving ground throughout, she was just behind front-running Fanticola, who had posted fractions of :23.65, :47.57, 1:12.89 and 1:37.13. Fanticola had to work a little bit to get to the front from post 10, and that extra effort early may have told as she couldn't quite kick on for home as well as usual. Stormy Lucy, who had been stalking in second, collared the leader in the stretch.

At that point, Photo Call had been traveling conspicuously well, and jockey Drayden Van Dyke just needed to get a seam. Her opportunity came, and she knifed through between Stormy Lucy and Fanticola. Spurting 2 1/4 lengths clear, she stopped the clock in 2:00.76.

Elektrum, also looking for room, followed the trail blazed by the winner and got up to head Stormy Lucy for second. Stormy Lucy was finishing third in the Rodeo Drive for the second time, having taken the show spot as a sophomore back in 2012. Another neck away in fourth came Fanticola.

Photo Call is now living up to her fine pedigree. The Irish-bred is out of Group 3 victress Theann, a Rock of Gibraltar half-sister to multiple Group 1 star Halfway to Heaven, who was unplaced as the favorite in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita.

Originally trained in Ireland by David Wachman, Photo Call was second to Lahinch Classics in her debut over 1 5/16 miles at Dundalk. The bay later broke her maiden at Fairyhouse, her only win in her homeland. She promptly captured her American bow in a Keeneland allowance last fall and ended her sophomore season with a troubled, rallying third in the La Prevoyante (G3). Photo Call tried to set the pace in the March 28 Orchid (G3), but faded to sixth. She had the opposite problem in the May 9 Beaugay (G3), where she was held up off a pokey pace and finished fast for second to Discreet Marq. After a flop in the Just a Game (G1), she lowered her sights for the July 3 Perfect Sting and missed by a half-length.

Now at least Photo Call was finding her right running style as a reasonably close stalker. She put it all together in the Violet, and even more emphatically here, and more's still to come from a filly with 13 starts under her belt.

Should Photo Call take up her engagement in the Filly & Mare Turf, her most lethal opponent would likely be Irish shipper Legatissimo -- her old stablemate from the Wachman yard.

Photo courtesy of Benoit.