Some 6 ½ hours after one of Europe's best female turf runners in quite a while finished second in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, America's newest Queen of the Turf remained on her throne as she added to a brilliant legacy.
Peter Brant's Sistercharlie moved into the rarest of company Oct. 6 as she captured the $500,000, Grade 1 Flower Bowl Stakes at Belmont Park by three-quarters-of-a-length under jockey John Velazquez to notch her sixth straight Grade 1 triumph and earn a free trip to California where she will bid to become the first back-to-back winner of the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.
"She's a rare horse," trainer Chad Brown said. "We're lucky to have her. She did everything she needed to do today."
So rare that the daughter of Myboycharlie came into Sunday grouped with a galaxy of thee sport's greatest stars, all of whom had five straight wins, all in Grade 1 company. Gun Runner, American Pharoah, Wise Dan, Rachel Alexandra, Skip Away, Cigar, Paseana, Easy Goer, Spectacular Bid, Affirmed, and Seattle Slew all reached five, but now Sistercharlie stands above them with six, leaving Zenyatta ahead of her with nine.
"We're talking about a future Hall of Famer," Brown said about the 2018 champion turf female.
The victory was 10th in 14 career starts for Sistercharlie and lifted her earnings to $3,482,003. It also removed one of the few blemishes on her impeccable record. She came into the race with a pair of seconds in two starts at Belmont Park, but added her first victory at the Elmont N.Y., track on a spectacular day for her owner. Prior to the Flower Bowl, Brant-owned Sottsass, half-brother to Sistercharlie, finished third in the Arc behind Waldgeist and the two-time Arc-winning mare Enable, and after it, his Alabama Stakes winner Dunbar Road was third in the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland.
"A case can be made that's this is not her favorite course, but she nevertheless she ran great today," Brown said about the mare, who was bred in Ireland by Ecurie Des Monceaux and purchased privately by Brant in 2017.
Up next will be a return trip to the $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita Park, where she will be a heavy favorite. By virtue of her victory in Sunday's "Win and You're In" stakes, she get a free spot in the 1 ¼-mile Nov. 2 race, which will be only the fourth start of 2019 for the 5-year-old mare.
"We're pretty confident going into the Breeders' Cup, as long as she stays healthy. She's remarkably consistent in the mornings and afternoons," Brown said. "I don't think we've gotten to the bottom of her yet. Some of the setbacks we've had along the way, though at the time they were very disappointing and inconvenient, it's kept her fresh. It goes both ways sometimes."
The Flower Bowl followed a familiar script as Brant's Thais once again played the role of the rabbit in the field of seven. She led by 12 lengths after a half-mile, and was ahead by three lengths at the quarter pole of the 1 1/4-mile stakes. Behind her, however, Sistercharlie was rolling three-wide, and flew past Thais leaving the eighth pole.
The lone threat came from Mrs. Sippy, who was exiting a win in the Grade 2 Glens Falls Stakes Stakes in her U.S. debut. The game 4-year-old daughter of Blame did not let Sistercharlie pull away in the final yards and finished a game second. Thais held on for third.
"I thought the runner up was impressive," Brown said. "She tracked all the way and made Sistercharlie run in the stretch."
Final time for the 10 furlongs on turf was 2:02.21.
"For a split second I thought we might get to her, but I was proud of how she ran. She got beat a length by the Breeders' Cup favorite," Motion said. "If she comes out okay, we have to take a shot at the Breeders' Cup where there will be a different, bigger field."
For Brown it was his fifth Flower Bowl win in six years and sixth overall, this time with a superb mare who always seems to make it look easy, even if it isn't.
"It's never a given, and all the way until inside the sixteenth pole it looked like it would be tight near the wire," Brown said. "You can never take anything for granted. No matter how good your horse is. It's horse racing. You have to run the race from start to finish, no matter how good your horse is. Anything can happen in a race." –Bob Ehalt
Wicked Whisper Impressive in Frizette Win
The daughter of Liam's Map grabbed the lead at the start of the Grade 1, $400,000 Frizette Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and didn't stop running until she was in California.
Figuratively, of course.
By virtue of her front-running 2 ¾-length victory over Spinaway Stakes runner-up Frank’s Rockette in the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series race, Steve Asmussen-trained Wicked Whisper earned a free spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park.
"We're going to enjoy the moment," assistant trainer Toby Sheets said when asked about the Breeders' Cup. "One thing at a time."
After covering a one-turn mile in 1:35.92, Wicked Whisper will be asked to travel around two turns at a 1 1/16-mile distance at the World Championships, but Sheets does not believe that will be a major issue for the fleet filly.
"She finished great," he said. "I don't see a problem at all with two turns."
The Frizette was just Wicked Whisper's second start, coming on the heels of a sizzling 6 ¼-length score in a six-furlong maiden race Aug. 25 at Saratoga Race Course.
"She's classy," Sheets said.
"Every time I asked her, she was there for me. It was her first time going a mile, so you just want something for the last part. She responded and just kept going. The more I asked, the more she was going. She looks like she's real spirited and looking around and enjoying herself," winning jockey Joel Rosario said.
Frank's Rockette was clear by 3 ¼ lengths over third-place finisher Slam Dunk. –Bob Ehalt
Four Wheel Drive Earns Juvenile Turf Sprint Berth in Futurity Stakes
Trained by Wesley Ward for Breeze Easy, the son of American Pharoah outran a field of five other 2-year-olds in the six-furlong sprint, earning an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Santa Anita Park next month.
"Hopefully, he comes out of the race well," said Breeze Easy co-owner Mike Hall. "It will be our first Breeders' Cup starter. We had Shang Shang Shang last year, but he came up a little off the day of the race, so hopefully this one makes the dream come true."
Ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., Four Wheel Drive pulled away after stalking the early pace to win by three lengths in a final time of 1:08.07 on a firm turf course.
"I worked him before this race, and I put him behind horses," Ortiz said. "He always worked good like that and relaxed. When I asked him, he would take off like an older horse. He has a good mind, so I didn't panic. I just let him break wherever he is comfortable and then go from there because I know he didn't have to be on the lead. He relaxed well, and when I asked, he turned on."
Four Wheel Drive won his career debut at Colonial Downs by 3 ¼ lengths on Aug. 31. He is the first stakes winner for his dam, the stakes-winning More Than Ready mare Funfair. –Mary LaRue