February 20, 2024

Vigilantes Way gets early position, graded breakthrough in Eatontown

Vigilantes Way
Vigilantes Way with Paco Lopez riding won the Eatontown Stakes at Monmouth Park (Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO)

Phipps Stable’s homebred Vigilantes Way was runner-up after a problematic start in the May 15 Gallorette S. (G3) at Pimlico. A sharper break in Sunday’s $165,000 Eatontown S. (G3) at Monmouth Park propelled the Shug McGaughey trainee to her first graded victory.

Drawn in the far outside post 12, the slight 3.60-1 favorite was into the game for Paco Lopez as soon as the gate opened. Vigilantes Way was able to secure perfect position, closely stalking a longshot setting a tepid pace.

The 23-1 Valletta posted splits of :24.54, :48.70, and 1:12.12 on the firm turf before Vigilantes Way imposed her will. Taking over entering the stretch, the favorite lengthened stride, pulled away by 2 1/4 lengths, and covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.90.

Valletta held second by a half-length from the dead-heating pair of Counterparty Risk and Crystal Cliffs. Counterparty Risk cut the corner turning for home, but couldn’t pick up enough. As the co-highweight lugging 124 pounds, Counterparty Risk was giving six pounds to the rest of the trifecta. Deep closer Crystal Cliffs finished fast on the outside to force a share of third.

Next came Xanthique; the 3.60-1 second choice Nay Lady Nay; Belle Laura; Speaktomeofsummer; Sweet Bye and Bye, who was never in position after being jostled and steadied early; Micheline, the other 124-pound co-highweight; Myhartbelongstodady; and Morning Molly. All four also-eligibles –Crown and Sugar, Inconvenient Facts, Positive Power, and Tasting the Stars – were scratched.

Vigilantes Way became the fourth notable winner produced by Salute, an Unbridled mare out of unbeaten Hall of Famer Personal Ensign. Salute is also responsible for Grade 1-winning sire Mr Speaker; Grade 3 scorer Fire Away; and streaking hurdler Snap Decision, who romped in the May 1 Temple Gwathmey Hurdle H., a Grade 2 under the auspices of the National Steeplechase Association.

“Sometimes this horse has speed, sometimes not,” Lopez said. “The post position (12) is something I usually don’t like but today it worked to our advantage. I was able to get out there and get in a good position behind (Valletta). It set up nicely for us.

“Shug told me to do whatever I felt I needed to do. She is usually in the top three early and I knew she would finish. She has a strong kick. It looked like there was a lot of speed in the race but they went kind of slow so I was happy with the position I was in throughout the race. I didn’t have to make up a lot of ground.”

McGaughey complimented Lopez’s ride.

“I thought Paco rode a good race,” the Hall of Famer said. “He got her away from there from the outside and had her in good position. I knew she would finish. She had trained very well before she went down there. It was just a matter of whether she would take the shipping on a hot day like today. She obviously did. I’m very proud of her.”

Vigilantes Way sports a mark of 12-5-2-3, $282,014. The Medaglia d’Oro filly placed in last fall’s Hilltop S. at Pimlico and Winter Memories S. at Aqueduct before breaking through in the Tropical Park Oaks at Gulfstream Park. Vigilantes Way tired to fifth in the Jan. 23 Marshua’s River S. (G3), but improved to third in the April 24 Dahlia S. at Pimlico. Back over the same course for the Gallorette, she closed furiously for a half-length second to millionaire Mean Mary who had things her own way up front.

“I thought her last race in Pimlico was a really good race,” McGaughey said, “because she kind of got jumbled up at the start and got out of position. She only got beat a half-length by Mean Mary, a multiple graded stakes winner.

“Now maybe we can go on and get her stretched out, maybe to a mile and an eighth. She’s handy. She might be able to get it. When that will be I don’t know. But today I am very pleased with the way she ran and very proud of her.”

McGaughey added what it means for a blueblood like Vigilantes Way to earn a graded laurel of her own.

“Getting a graded stakes win is important, especially for a filly with a pedigree like hers. It’s as good a pedigree as you are going to find. So now she’s a graded stakes winner. Hopefully it might lead something even better.”