October 1, 2022

Sophie P nips Madam Dancealot in Gamely thriller; Itsinthepost resumes service in Whittingham

Sophie P (outside) scores a 14-1 upset in the Gamely over Madam Dancealot (right) and Madame Stripes (center) ©Benoit Photo

The complexion of Saturday’s $300,690 Gamely S. (G1) changed twice before it had barely begun, and the drama concluded with an epic three-way photo that went to 14-1 Sophie P by a pixel over Madam Dancealot with Madame Stripes a neck away in third. Making just her second start for D P Racing since selling for 160,000 guineas at Tattersalls last December, the Jim Cassidy mare was repaying the investment with her first stakes win.

The early plot twist came Thursday after Chad Brown shipper Uni, who looked tough to beat, spiked a fever and had to be withdrawn. Bettors rallied round the other East Coast invader, even-money favorite Hawksmoor, only to watch as that likely pacesetter stumbled at the start and never recovered. Virtually going into a squat when the latch was sprung, she scrambled to get back into stride but found herself well back of her preferred forward position.

Madame Stripes played the pacesetting role vacated by Hawksmoor. Midnight Crossing was latched onto her through an opening quarter in :23.92 on the firm course, but Madame Stripes kicked away by daylight at the half in :47.24. By the time she clocked six furlongs in 1:11.45, however, Midnight Crossing had closed to within a half-length again, and Sophie P was on the move.

Under Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux, Sophie P was reserved in a ground-saving fourth early, with Mopotism flanked on her outside. The British import had no problem extricating herself from the pocket, for Mopotism was unable to keep her position, and Midnight Crossing was not going well enough to hem her in.

Sophie P angled into the clear and challenged in upper stretch. Meanwhile, Madam Dancealot was rallying into contention on the rail. Madame Stripes responded, dug in, and continued to hold sway nearly all the way. But in the final yards, Sophie P and Madam Dancealot were relentless, and Madame Stripes began to weaken.

Screenshot of the official Gamely win photo

The trio crossed the wire in tandem. Sophie P and Madam Dancealot could not be separated by the naked eye, and the only certainty was that they had both edged Madame Stripes. After a tense time of wondering if it were a dead-heat, the verdict was rendered in Sophie P’s favor.

Negotiating 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.53, Sophie P sparked a $30 win mutuel and boosted her own resume to 21-5-5-1, $256,609.

Beau Recall closed from last to grab fourth. Hawksmoor tried to make a middle move for Julien Leparoux, but got no closer than three lengths from the leader, and flattened out in fifth. Midnight Crossing faded to sixth, and Mopotism brought up the rear.

An update on Uni was kindly tweeted by bloodstock adviser Brad Weisbord.

Sophie P was bred by New Hall Stud in Great Britain. Initially trained by Scottish-based R. Mike Smith, the daughter of Bushranger competed mostly at the handicap level. But she did snare a listed stakes placing when second to Nezwaah in last May’s Rothesay at Ayr. Sophie P left on a high note with back-to-back handicap scores at Musselburgh. In her American premiere, the five-year-old finished sixth in the April 7 Royal Heroine (G2).

Out of the winning Giant’s Causeway mare Fountains Abbey, Sophie P hails from the family of Group 1 scorers Nadia and Signs of Blessing. Her fourth dam is noted matron La Dame Du Lac, a daughter of the blue hen Cosmah.

Quotes from Santa Anita

Winning owner Deron Pearson: “We wanted to run in an allowance race before we took a shot this Grade 1, but the race didn’t go so we decided to go ahead and take a shot here. When they hit the wire, I thought we won, but when I got down here and started watching the replays, you don’t know where the wire is.”

Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux on Sophie P: “She was fluttering to me and I haven’t had a horse do that with me in years. It’s a great indication to me, verbally, like she was saying, ‘I’m very happy here, let’s continue to cruise here.’ I stayed there until I needed her to help me make some room for a run.

“Once she had clear sailing she really took off. She had to fight to catch the leader and was very fortunate to beat the horse that she couldn’t see. The photo finish describes it completely. My horse is completely stretched out and the (other) horse (Madam Dancealot) is completely coiled up so it was a very fortunate win and we were lucky to get the head bob.”

Winning trainer Jim Cassidy: “I really wasn’t sure if we got the bob, but if I had to bet on it I would have said no.

“If they put up dead heat I would not have been surprised.

“I was thinking Kent’s a great rider as I watched the stretch. He put her in the right position and didn’t let anybody get clear. He did everything he had to do.

“Kent told me that when he could hear her breathing steadily (makes rhythm noise) that he knew he had a lot of horse.

“The mile and an eighth in here, I thought, was going to be to her benefit and the fact that she’s trained very forwardly since her last race.”

Jockey Corey Nakatani on near-misser Madam Dancealot: “I thought I won my first Grade 1 for these guys, so close.  What a nice filly, she ran great.”

Jockey Julien Leparoux on Hawksmoor, fifth as the favorite:  “She stumbled really bad. She was standing fine…maybe it’s starting on the dirt, I don’t know. After that, she was never comfortable. She was pulling too much and not relaxing at all. It’s the kind of race that we need to erase and go to the next one.”

Itsinthepost racked up his seventh Grade 2 in the Whittingham BENOIT PHOTO

In contrast to the Gamely, the $200,345 Charles Whittingham (G2) earlier on the card proved far more formful, and a happier outcome for Leparoux, as 4-5 favorite Itsinthepost regained the winning thread.

With his longtime partner Tyler Baze still sidelined from a spill last Saturday, the French-bred picked up fellow expat Leparoux. Baze gave him a thorough briefing, Leparoux followed instructions to a tee, and Itsinthepost once again imposed his class.

Stretch-out miler What a View led the way through fractions of :25.31, :50.62, 1:15.32 and 1:38.93, but could not maintain his advantage down the stretch. While the stalking Kenjisstorm was the first to strike, Itsinthepost was in his pet spot – cruising on the outside and ready to roll. The Jeff Mullins veteran punched past Kenjisstorm, drew 1 1/4 lengths clear, and completed 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.10. Just to show off under his top weight of 125 pounds, he kept motoring on the gallop-out.

Kenjisstorm was easily second by 2 1/4 lengths. Frank Conversation outstayed What a View for third-place honors, and Flamboyant and Syntax didn’t get involved. Ritzy A. P. was scratched along with Full of Luck, who instead ran last in the Gold Cup (G1) one race earlier.

Campaigned by Red Baron’s Barn, Itsinthepost has bankrolled $1,240,707 from a record of 35-10-7-6. The gelded son of American Post was racking up his seventh stakes victory, all at the Grade 2 level. Most recently third as the defending champion in Keeneland’s Elkhorn (G2), the six-year-old has also captured the past two runnings of the San Luis Rey (G2); the 2017 John Henry Turf Championship (G2); and this winter’s San Gabriel (G2) and San Marcos (G2).

Quotes from Santa Anita

Jed Cohen of Red Baron’s Barn: “It was a little unsettling not having Tyler ride because he basically lives with this horse, in more ways than one. I know Julien is a good rider but still, it’s a change and who knows what will happen? Tyler talked with Julien before the race and told him the things not to do with him!

“He’s just such a strong horse, he can’t even pull him up. The same with the mornings when Tyler works him. He works him on the training track, keeps him away from the rail and he just always wants to go and tells us, ‘I can’t do anything about it, he just wants to go!’ That’s what he does.”

Winning rider Julien Leparoux: “Tyler talked to me just before the race in the paddock.

“I heard I might ride him but I wasn’t sure and found out for sure today. I wish Tyler a fast recovery and it’s always bad to get hurt but especially before these big days.

“The set-up looked great for us before the race…We tracked him and made a move on the outside. It was a pretty easy race and he won nicely.

“I thought we would have more pace but he was traveling very nicely for me and I just wanted to wait until that last part to finish.”

Winning trainer Jeff Mullins: “He’s by far the most consistent horse I’ve had, especially at the marathon (grass) distances. He’s just solid.

“The horse puts himself where he needs to be in a race and if the pace is quick enough, he can get it done, and even when the pace isn’t quick enough, sometimes.”

Asked where he’s going next: “To the Derby (Restaurant) for dinner.”