As if further proof were needed of the depth of the Chad Brown barn, the trainer’s second-fancied Uni stepped up as favored stablemate Rushing Fall faltered in Saturday’s $400,000 First Lady (G1) at Keeneland. Indeed, the European import thrived on the torrid pace set-up and smashed the mile course record in 1:32.87.
Uni thereby secured a berth in the Breeders’ Cup – not at this ideal trip in the Mile (G1), but in the 1 1/4-mile Filly & Mare Turf (G1). And in a further wrinkle, the British-bred is not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup, so owners Michael Dubb, Head of Plains Partners, Robert LaPenta, and Bethlehem Stables would have to pay to make her eligible.
Last time out, Uni was a troubled third in another course-record contest, the August 11 Fourstardave (G1) at Saratoga. The top two, Got Stormy and Raging Bull, came back to place second and third in the Woodbine Mile (G1), and Uni underscored the merit of the form here.
Dispatched at 3-1 with Joel Rosario, the More Than Ready mare bided her time near the rear of the field as the projected pace war materialized. Ms Bad Behavior hustled from post 11 to grab the lead, at the cost of an opening quarter in :22.71 on the firm turf. The 100-1 Conquest Hardcandy continued to press her through the half in :45.40, and when the longshot called it a day, Juliet Foxtrot ranged up at the six-furlong mark in 1:09.47.
Meanwhile, 6-5 favorite Rushing Fall was reserved a little past midpack. It soon became clear, however, that her perfect Keeneland record was in jeopardy. She didn’t produce the desired response in the stretch, while Uni was rapidly gaining steam behind her.
Juliet Foxtrot put away the tiring Ms Bad Behavior, only to have Uni in turn blow by her in a few strides. Opening up by 2 1/2 lengths, the chestnut clipped 0.67 off the old course mark of 1:33.54 that had stood since Perfect Soul’s Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) in 2004.
Runner-up Juliet Foxtrot crossed the wire 1 1/4 lengths clear of the rallying Vasilika, who turned in a fine prep for her Filly & Mare Turf bid back home at Santa Anita. Rushing Fall checked in fourth, a head up on the 76-1 Hanalei Moon – the only time in her career that she didn’t make the exacta. Awesometank, Just Wonderful, Mitchell Road, Storm the Hill, Ms Bad Behavior, Indian Blessing, Marina’s Legacy, and the tailed-off Conquest Hardcandy rounded out the order of finish. Simply Breathless was scratched.
Uni earned her second Grade 1 victory after last December’s Matriarch (G1) at Del Mar, upping her resume to 16-9-2-3, $1,241,872. She was also setting her second course record, having sped a mile in Aqueduct’s Plenty of Grace in 1:33.42 in her 2018 debut.
“At some point I thought she (Rushing Fall) would have a little more speed than me,” Rosario recapped, “and I’d be looking to see where she was and probably follow her and she’d put me in a good spot. In the first turn, it looked like they were going pretty good speed, and I just followed Rushing Fall. (Uni) came with a nice run like she always does. She’s unbelievable. She has a long stride and she just kept coming and coming.”
Bred by Haras d’Etreham and sold for €40,000 ($44,380) as an Arqana August yearling, Uni is out of the Dansili mare Unaided, a descendant of the influential matron Eljazzi. She concluded the French phase of her life by beating the boys in the 2017 Prix Matchem at Maisons-Laffitte and began her American career with a third in the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1), her lone attempt at 1 1/4 miles. Uni stuck to nine furlongs for the rest of her sophomore campaign, capturing the Sands Point (G2), finishing second in the Lake Placid (G2), and regressing to fourth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1).
Brown has kept her to a mile ever since, and Uni has won six of seven, her lone reverse coming in the Fourstardave. Aside from her Grade 1 laurels, she garnered three minor stakes and romped in last fall’s Noble Damsel (G3).
Two races later, the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) witnessed a stretch scramble for the free ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Trainer Phil D’Amato had opted to ship Bowies Hero rather than run at home in Saturday’s $200,000 City of Hope Mile (G2), and the decision literally paid off as the 8-1 chance led home even bigger prices in a blanket finish.
The pace wasn’t nearly as frenetic as the First Lady. The 12-1 Diamond Oops vied with the 16-1 Real Story through fractions of :23.50, :47.23, and 1:11.04 before the latter beat a retreat. Bandua, parked in their slipstream early, joined the fray rounding the far turn, and Divisidero loomed at the same time. But Diamond Oops proved stubborn as they ultimately stalled.
Then Bowies Hero swooped in a perfectly timed move for Flavien Prat. Overtaking Diamond Oops by three-quarters of a length, the Agave Racing Stable, ERJ Racing, and Madaket Stables runner clocked 1:34.20 and returned $18.40.
The next five across the line were all separated by noses. The 20-1 British shipper Suedois, hero of the 2017 Shadwell, might have regained his crown but for the 12 post, and his closing third was full of merit. First Premio snared fourth at 28-1, followed by the 21-1 March to the Arch, and defending champion Next Shares was sixth on the inside at 18-1. Divisidero flattened out in seventh; Van Beethoven caught Bandua to force a dead-heat for eighth; 2-1 favorite Valid Point suffered his first loss in 10th; Admission Office never factored once buried behind horses in the stretch; Vintager faded after being in the hunt; and Robin of Navan and Real Story brought up the rear. Also-eligibles Emaraaty and Get Western stayed in the barn.
By 2005 Breeders’ Cup Mile star Artie Schiller, Bowies Hero became a millionaire with $1,478,970 in earnings from a 21-8-1-3 record. He was already a Grade 1 winner from last year’s Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1), but he’d had more misses than hits in the interim. The bay cracked the top three just twice in the interim, placing third in the May 27 Shoemaker Mile (G1) and taking the July 21 Eddie Read (G2).
“We’ve always had the confidence in this horse,” assistant trainer Josh Flores said. “He’s had some tough trips. Today, Flavien was able to put him in the right spot and he was able to fly home.”
“I thought I had a good trip,” Prat said. “My horse broke well – better than the other day (when fifth in the Del Mar Mile [G2]). I was able to put myself in the race, was able to tip him out around the turn and get him ready to make his run. And then he got the job done. (The cavalry charge) was great. When you win, it’s great. When you get beat, it’s frustrating. He always gives you everything he has.”
Bowies Hero has been a stakes performer for four consecutive seasons, since capturing the 2016 Del Mar Juvenile Turf. He padded his resume as a sophomore with scores in the Mathis Brothers Mile (G2), Singletary, and Oceanside along with thirds in the Del Mar Derby (G2) and Twilight Derby (G2).
Bred by Pope McLean, Pope McLean Jr., and Mark McLean in Kentucky, Bowies Hero RNA’d for $16,000 as a Keeneland November weanling and changed hands for $17,000 as a September yearling. As a two-year-old in training he brought $32,000 at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic’s May Sale. Bowies Hero was produced by the unraced Sky Mesa mare Remembered, a half-sister to Grade 2 scorer Mint Lane and to Grade 1-placed Sister Girl Blues, dam of 2015 Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Firing Line. This is also the immediate family of Grade 1 hero and $2.4 million-earner Sharp Azteca.