Close Hatches (pink cap) held off Princess of Sylmar to win the Ogden Phipps Stakes on June 7 at Belmont Park. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)
In arguably one of the most competitive races of the year, Close Hatches asserted her dominance over the older female division when she won the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Not only did it add to her two winning performances earlier this year but also gave her a signature win against two top fillies in champion Beholder and Princess of Sylmar. But who is this filly that many had as an afterthought going into the Phipps? Let’s take a look.
Making her career debut on the Holy Bull Stakes undercard in 2013, Close Hatches impressed when she won the race by seven lengths with Joel Rosario on board.
Two starts later, then undefeated Close Hatches made her stakes debut in the Grade 2 Gazelle Stakes, where she met Princess of Sylmar for the first time. Close Hatches took an easy lead until they entered the turn and Princess of Sylmar challenged her in the first showdown that fans would see between the two. But as soon as Rosario asked her to accelerate, Close Hatches put away Princess of Sylmar to win by 3 ¼ lengths.
Close Hatches’ only poor performance came in the 2013 Kentucky Oaks when she finished seventh, 10 ¾ lengths behind Princess of Sylmar. Her second defeat came four weeks later when she was second in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes, finishing 6 ¼ lengths behind Midnight Lucky.
She bounced back a little less than a month later by earning a Grade 1 victory in the Mother Goose Stakes. During the first two calls of the race, Close Hatches raced in fourth before taking command and drawing off to win by an easy 7 ¼ lengths. The win saw a huge jump in her Equibase Speed Figure, as she cleared her previous best of 102 by nearly 10 points when she registered a 111 for the win.
After the victory, Close Hatches received a summer break and didn’t return to the track until three months later. Mike Smith was aboard Close Hatches when she returned in the Cotillion Stakes and maintained her elite form by winning the Cotillion easily, which set her up for a run at the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
In the Distaff, Close Hatches was the closest horse to Beholder at the finish line of the 1 1/8-mile race, but in that case “closest” meant 4 ¼ lengths back. However, beating all but one horse in a field that included two-time Distaff winner Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar made certain Close Hatches was on the radar as a horse to watch in 2014.
Close Hatches didn’t disappoint when she returned in 2014. She jumped to the top of the older female standings with a victory in the Grade 2 Azeri Stakes, followed by a win in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom. But her crowning moment came in the Ogden Phipps as she beat both Princess of Sylmar and Beholder to solidify her spot at the top of the division.
The victory also saw her make a jump to fourth on the NTRA’s Top Thoroughbred Poll for June 9, the highest female on the poll.
CLOSE HATCHES WINNING 2013 MOTHER GOOSE
Photo by Eclipse Sportswire
From the first crop of sire First Defence and as the first foal of Rising Tornado, by Storm Cat, Close Hatches provides a healthy boost for both parents’ produce records. But their potential is backed up by pedigrees that assault readers with the black, bold type seen on pedigrees full of stakes winners.
First Defence was a Grade 1 winner during his career, winning the Forego Handicap at Saratoga. But while he was a successful racehorse, his star power comes from his pedigree.
By Unbridled’s Song, First Defence comes from Juddmonte Farms' best American family. His dam (mother), Honest Lady, was a Grade 1 winner and is a multiple stakes producer, but his second dam (maternal grandmother) is where the magic is. Toussaud was the U.S.’s Broodmare of the Year in 2002 and produced Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker and Arlington Million winner Chester House among others. There is really no doubt that First Defence has the breeding to become a very nice sire.
On her female side, Close Hatches has a pedigree as strong as her sire’s.
While her dam was a winner, her second dam, Silver Star, was graded stakes placed. Silver Star also has the distinction of being a full sister to European champion Xaar in addition to being a half-sister to group stakes winners Diese and Masterclass. Close Hatches extended family also includes champion Malinowski, Grade 1 winner Cityscape and 1982 Kentucky Oaks winner Blush With Pride, whose daughter Better Than Honor produced Belmont Stakes winners Rags to Riches and Jazil.
When looking at Close Hatches pedigree, it is easy to see why she has excelled at route races, as she has both speed and stamina on both sides of her family tree.
One interesting note about her pedigree is that she also has strong turf lines on both sides, making it probable that she would have major success on that surface as well. But if you’re a turf fan, don’t get your hopes up. As a multiple Grade 1 winner on the dirt, it is highly unlikely Close Hatches will ever run on the sod.
Close Hatches has to keep up her form for another five months if she wants to succeed in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. However, with her win in the Phipps, she has definitely cemented her status as a filly to watch for the rest of the year.