When Gamine was entered into a maiden special weight at Santa Anita Park in March, people paid attention. The 3-year-old Into Mischief filly trained by Bob Baffert was purchased by Michael Lund Peterson for $1.8 million dollars and one could argue she has been a star from the start.
After she blew away the competition in her 6 1/2-furlong debut by 6 1/4 lengths, Baffert, who is generally reserved in speaking about his untested horses, revealed just how much he was anticipating the filly’s arrival on the track.
“I always get nervous when I have a first timer and I know I have a superstar in the making,” Baffert said after the maiden win. “Sometimes they work great and in the afternoons they just don’t show up. She is a little behind.”
Then the filly gave her trainer, who had announced he would be pointing her to the Longines Kentucky Oaks in September just prior to her next start, a slight scare when she repelled Speech by a mere neck to win a 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional claiming race at Oaklawn Park.
But when Gamine returned for the $300,000, Grade 1 Longines Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park, she announced her arrival on the 3-year-old filly classic trail loud and clear. Gamine ran the fastest Acorn in history, defeating a field of six other classy 3-year-old fillies under John Velazquez going one mile on the main track June 20. —Mary LaRue
Oleksandra Earn Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Berth in Jaipur
The lone female in the field of eight, Oleksandra ($6.50) proved up to the challenge against her male rivals, though she needed nearly every yard of the six-furlong race to prevail with her rally from last. She completed the distance on a firm turf course under Joel Rosario in 1:06.80, just off the course record.
The Jaipur is a "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Nov. 7 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland.—Byron King
Front-running No Parole Rolls in Woody Stephens
For trainer Tom Amoss, the Rebel Stakes was a painful experience on a couple of fronts.
His experiment in running the speedy No Parole around two turns against graded stakes company did not even come close to working out as hoped. The then-undefeated Louisiana-bred Violence colt failed to reach the front at any call and not only finished eighth and last, but was 49 lengths behind victorious Nadal.
Adding to the sting of that defeat, prior to that race Amoss had talked his longtime friend Greg Tramontin into buying an interest in the 3-year-old colt from owner Maggi Moss.
“I recommended to Greg that he buy into the horse, and he had to be wondering what I made him do,” Amoss said. “But he’s a savvy and successful businessman and he held the course. He was fine with letting No Parole go back to what he does best and he and Maggi have been rewarded.”
Returned to sprint distances after the Rebel fiasco, No Parole showed why Tramontin was wise to hop on board, and stay there, as he glided to the early lead and then pulled away with aplomb in the stretch under Luis Saez to register a 3 3/4-length triumph in the seven-furlong, Grade 1 Woody Stephens Stakes Presented by Claiborne Farm for 3-year-olds.—Bob Ehalt
Decorated Invader Dominant in Pennine Ridge
Decorated Invader proved he was a class above the rest in the $150,000, Grade 2 Pennine Ridge Stakes when he found a narrow path along the rail to get by Proven Strategies and prevailed by 4 3/4 lengths in the one-mile turf test for 3-year-olds.
The Declaration of War colt, trained by Christophe Clement for West Point Thoroughbreds, William Freeman, William Sandbrook, and Cheryl Manning, is 2-for-2 this year and has a career record of 4-1-0 in six starts for earnings of $370,535.
Proven Strategies, who previously had finished behind Decorated Invader in two Grade 1 tests, sprang from the gate to take the lead. Pressed by Vanzzy, the Sky Mesa colt set early fractions of :23.86 and :47.50 through a half-mile.
On the far turn, Decorated Invader moved up from third where he had settled under jockey Joel Rosario and came on even terms with Vanzzy, who was still pressing the leader. As Proven Strategies clocked six furlongs in 1:10.61, Rosario found space along the rail and moved Decorated Invader up to challenge. Though Proven Strategies bounced into him slightly, Decorated Invader was not intimidated and drove through.
Battling momentarily, Decorated Invader shrugged off Proven Strategies and galloped clear to finish in 1:33.66 on firm turf.
“He’s very classy. The pace was OK, but not too fast,” Rosario said. “He was there for me and so relaxed, so I just let him be (closer up) because it looked like there was no pace up front. I made a move before the turn and I saw (Proven Strategies) come off the rail a little bit, go in and out, and I wasn’t sure what he was doing. I let him go inside and started working from there.
“I think the further he goes — he’ll go better. He’s a big horse and he loves to run.”—Mary LaRue
Sweet Melania Soars in 3-Year-Old Bow
Robert and Lawana Low’s Sweet Melania, a Grade 2 winner at 2, easily held four rivals at bay in her 2020 debut, the $145,500 Wonder Again Stakes. One of many top runners from the first crop of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Sweet Melania covered the mile on firm turf in a swift 1:34.23 as Highland Glory rallied late to edge Antoinette for the place spot by a half-length in the Grade 3 race.
Sweet Melania was a top runner last year for trainer Todd Pletcher, breaking her maiden at Saratoga Race Course going 1 1/16 miles on the turf before dropping a neck decision to Crystalle in the P. G. Johnson Stakes in late August. At Keeneland, she was a commanding 5 1/2-length winner of the Grade 2 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes. She finished the year with a third-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita Park.
“We planned on giving her a little time off after the Breeders’ Cup, and things went kind of crazy for a while,” Pletcher said, referring to the COVID-19 crisis. “We didn’t know where she would come back. We knew a distance like a mile was what we were looking for, so when this race came out, we pointed toward this.”—Evan Hammonds