Close Hatches dominated the Mother Goose on Saturday, scoring her first Grade 1 victory (Photos courtesy Coglinese Photos/NYRA).
Close Hatches looked like a winner entering the far turn of the Mother Goose Stakes on Saturday at Belmont Park when she swept into contention with a powerful rally and shook free entering the stretch to pick up her first career Grade 1 win.
The Juddmonte Farms homebred filly opened her racing career with three consecutive wins, including a victory in the Grade 2 Gazelle Stakes at Aqueduct that punched Close Hatches’ ticket to the Kentucky Oaks.
Close Hatches finished a disappointing seventh in the Kentucky Oaks before rebounding to finish second in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes on May 27. She was back at her best on Saturday in the Mother Goose.
“She was doing very well – she only ran 3 1/2 weeks ago but she came out of it extremely well,” winning trainer Bill Mott said of Close Hatches. “She looked good, her color was good, [and] I think she actually put on a little weight since then. It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain, why all of a sudden they start to really round into form. She was good before, but she really went into this one very nicely.”
Jockey Joel Rosario reserved Close Hatches in fourth early in the 1 1/16-mile Mother Goose. Rosario positioned her outside of overwhelming 1-5 favorite Dreaming of Julia as Toasting set a moderate pace through a half-mile in :46.27.
Rosario asked Close Hatches to accelerate approaching the turn and she responded willingly.
“She exploded nicely,” Mott said. “By the time we got to the middle of the turn, it looked like we got first run on [Dreaming of Julia]. At the three-eighths pole, we’re breezing to the lead. It looked pretty good from here.”
Close Hatches reeled in Sister State and pacesetter Toasting on the turn before opening up a commanding advantage in the stretch. She coasted to a 7 ¼-length runaway victory as the 4-1 second betting choice in the 5-horse field.
Dreaming of Julia stalked the early pace but dropped back to last on the turn despite encouragement from jockey John Velazquez. The Grade 1 winner eventually found her best stride in the stretch and caught Marathon Lady for second without ever seriously threatening Close Hatches.
Velazquez said he thinks Dreaming of Julia did not appreciate racing between horses after she encountered trouble in that scenario when fourth in the Kentucky Oaks.
“She wasn’t comfortable between horses, and I think she got shy from the time before when she got squeezed in the Oaks,” Velazquez said. “Now she’s between horses and getting shy in there. It’s hard for her to get in there, and she didn’t want to take it at all. That was it.”
Close Hatches won for the fourth time in six starts and boosted her career earnings to $451,300. She is from the first crop of Grade 1 winner First Defence.
Mott said he has not yet made future plans for his improving filly but would consider the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 20 at Saratoga Race Course. He was happy to get the Grade 1 win on her resume.
“Now, she’s got the Grade 1. There’s no gun at our head to do anything,” he said. “We’ll wait until she’s ready again. Right now, we’ll try to keep her with her own age group, I suppose. … If she’s doing as well as she was going into today, we’ll have to give [the CCA Oaks] strong consideration.”
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CLOSE HATCHES BEATS FAVORITE DREAMING OF JULIA BY 7 1/4 LENGTHS