March 27, 2023

Selcourt prevails in Las Flores war of attrition

Selcourt was no shrinking violet as she beat off all challengers in the Las Flores © BENOIT PHOTO

Last time out in the January 14 Kalookan Queen, Selcourt proved that she could run rivals off their feet in a pacesetting tour de force. In Sunday’s $100,345 Las Flores (G3), the lightly raced John Sadler trainee demonstrated an even more admirable quality – the ability to withstand a bruising pace war and come out on top.

Selcourt was in a no-holds-barred contest from the start of the six-furlong dash, her first tilt at the graded level. The even-money favorite eyeballed Coniah through an unforgiving opening quarter in :21.54. That’s when Princess Karen, who had been up with them early, called it a day.

As Selcourt headed Coniah at the half in :44.52, she was traveling smoothly for regular rider Tyler Baze and promising to edge away. But Coniah came again on the inside, and Selcourt had a renewed offensive on her hands.

At the same time, Skye Diamonds gained traction on the outside. For a few strides, Skye Diamonds’ textbook trip of watching the pace scrum in front of you, before picking up the pieces from the spent leaders, was on the verge of panning out. But she could never quite get enough momentum in this seasonal reappearance versus race-fit foes.

Selcourt, on the other hand, was relentless. Refusing to let Coniah get back on terms, she finally prevailed in the battle of wills and subdued her game opponent by three-quarters of a length. Coniah, worthy of praise for her attitude as the 124-pound highweight, kept her head unbowed and in front of Skye Diamonds as the runner-up.

Skye Diamonds settled for third, six lengths clear of Just a Little Hope. Citizen Kitty was far back in fifth, and Princess Karen was last home of the six.

By stopping the clock in 1:09.65, Selcourt enhanced her record to 5-3-1-1, $163,920, all at Santa Anita. The Tiz Wonderful filly debuted for her breeder, Keith Abrahams, at this trip last February. After she dusted them by 9 1/4 lengths in 1:09.59, Selcourt picked up a couple of new co-owners. She’s since raced for the partnership of Abrahams, Medallion Racing, and Sandra Lazaruk. Selcourt stepped right up to stakes company next, but pace battles took their toll as she placed second to Union Strike in the April 9 Santa Paula and third to Faypien and Noted and Quoted in the May 14 Angels Flight. She wasn’t spotted again until the Kalookan Queen, and the four-year-old model of Selcourt looks a fair amount stronger.

The Kentucky-bred Selcourt is out of the Open Forum mare Azure Spring, who is in turn a full sister to multiple Grade 3-placed stakes winner Open Concert.

Quotes from Santa Anita

Breeder and co-owner Keith Abrahams on Selcourt:  “Her dam has been one of those mares who’s been a little unlucky. I always thought this filly would be a really good horse, but when she was a yearling, my farm people advised me to sell her…We’ve been patient and we’re with “Mr. Patient,” John Sadler.”

Winning trainer John Sadler: “She was in with really good horses and their strategy seemed to be to take it to her. She took the pressure and just kept going.

“We’ll probably go out to a seven-eighths race in her next start, run her a little further. We might even try her in the Beholder Mile (G1) when we get around to June, something like that. She’s a big-striding filly and can carry her speed well so we’ll just take it one race at a time.

“I was pretty confident today. She’s been training so well that I just wanted to run her back. She handles this track beautifully and she had a beautiful work here last weekend. She’s a good filly so for the good ones, it’s not so hard.”

Winning rider Tyler Baze: “She’s a nice filly but she had to work for it today. I was very confident in her. She ran a huge race last time and John said she’s doing better than she was before that race so that means she was going to run at least as well as she did in her last and I thought that was good enough to win today.

“Skye Diamonds is a tough mare and so is Coniah…Those were tough horses she beat today so we’ll see where it goes from here.

“John didn’t say anything in the paddock but I saw him near his barn this morning. He said, ‘we’ve got a good outside post so just don’t take any of her speed away. Use that to your advantage and don’t let anyone go and get the lead from you because she’s too good. She’s better than those horses so make them run to beat you and run to stay up with you.’ So that’s what I did.”

Trainer William Morey on runner-up Coniah: “I thought she ran a great race.  Hats off to the winner, but we gave her everything she wanted.  To go head and head like that and still finish, that’s a heck of race.”

Skye Diamonds’ trainer Bill Spawr on her third: “She might have gotten a little tired at the end. (Jockey) Tiago (Pereira) said she didn’t have the best of trips…She had to go a little wide there turning for home…But, it’s a good start.”