Prat shines on Illuminant in Gamely

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

May 31st, 2016

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Illuminant parlayed a perfect stalking trip into a landmark victory in the $300,000 Gamely (G1), Santa Anita’s Memorial Day feature. With an assist from jockey Flavien Prat, she earned a new career high for herself and for trainer Michael McCarthy.

McCarthy had technically won a Grade 1 during his stint as Todd Pletcher’s point man in Southern California, when Rags to Riches landed the 2007 Las Virgenes (G1) in his name. But since going out on his own, McCarthy can take sole credit for the development of Illuminant, his first Grade 1 winner properly so called.

The pre-race focus was mostly on Chad Brown shipper Wekeela, who not only brought smart form from France, but also boasted a runner-up effort to champion Tepin in the April 16 Jenny Wiley (G1). While Wekeela was bet down to 4-5, the third-placer from the Jenny Wiley, Illuminant, was let go at 5-1. There had been only 1 1/2 lengths between Wekeela and Illuminant at Keeneland, and it didn’t take much to reverse the form.

The major contributing factor was the pokey pace. Setting up shop just off the flank of lone speed Fanticola, Illuminant was best poised to take advantage of the steady splits of :24.00 :48.04, and 1:12.31. Wekeela improved her position on the far turn, but hit a flat spot at the head of the lane. At that crucial point, Illuminant kicked into gear, putting away the laboring Fanticola and pulling clear.

To her credit, Wekeela kept trying for the length of the stretch and stayed on for second. Her progress wasn’t as marked as Elektrum, who rolled from last for third. Aside from the race shape, I suspect that the course was probably plenty firm enough for Wekeela. She strode like a horse who might have been feeling the ground a bit. (But for a contrary view from an expert, see Prat’s quotes below; he describes the Santa Anita course as softer than Keeneland’s.)

Keri Belle reported home fourth, relegating Fanticola to fifth. Nancy from Nairobi, stuck inside much of the way, wound up sixth of eight.

Illuminant, who covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.34, paid $12.40 to win. Fourth in the Monrovia (G2) sprinting on Santa Anita’s downhill course and in the La Canada (G2) on dirt in January, the dark bay earned her first stakes placing in the Jenny Wiley. Her resume reads 11-4-2-1, and she nearly doubled her bankroll to $367,650.

Bred by Sycamore Hall Farm in Pennsylvania, Illuminant is a 4-year-old daughter of Quality Road and multiple Monmouth Park stakes winner Sparkling Number, by Polish Numbers. She first sold for $32,000 as a Keeneland September yearling before commanding $180,000 as an OBS March 2-year-old.

Quotes courtesy of Santa Anita

Aron Wellman of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners: “First of all, all the credit has to go to this man, Michael McCarthy. This filly is high maintenance and he’s done a great job. She ran her heart out last time at Keeneland. Winning big races like this at Santa Anita and other tracks around the country is what it’s all about. Without our partners we wouldn’t be able to do this.

“We’re a Todd Pletcher organization, he’s our main man. As a disciple of Todd’s it just made all the sense in the world for us to support Michael when he hung up his shingle to go out on his own and I couldn’t be happier for him and his family. He’s got about five or six for us now.

“Gary (Young) and I are a two man team at the 2-year-old sales and we found her at the sale down in Ocala, Florida, together.”

Winning trainer Michael McCarthy: “It’s pretty exciting to win a race like this. I thought she would run well today. She’s a very honest filly, tries hard and I thought the mile and an eighth would be right up her alley.

“Fanticola is a very tough mare and I was just kinda hoping we would have enough to get to her. Luckily today, we did.

“I didn’t give Flavien a whole of instructions before the race. I didn’t think he needed it.”

Winning rider Flavien Prat: “Yes, I expected to be that close to the pace. Fanticola was the only speed in the race so I knew I needed to be right there. My filly has speed too, so I knew it would be OK.

“I think she improved off her Jenny Wiley third-place finish in her last out. The turf is a bit softer here and that’s maybe better for her, especially going a mile and an eighth. And here at Santa Anita I feel it’s better if you’re closer to the lead. At Keeneland, it’s a bigger turf course and when you come from off the pace there, it’s easier.

“We work every day to win a race like this so I’ll really enjoy it and have to thank Michael McCarthy and all the connections.”

Jockey Javier Castellano on runner-up Wekeela: “We had a perfect trip and we were in a good position the whole way. The pace was slow, but we were right behind the winner turning for home and that filly never stopped.”

Photo courtesy of Benoit.