April 24, 2024

Terra’s Angel heavenly in Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf

Sasha Risenhoover celebrates a poignant victory aboard Terra's Angel in the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf © BENOIT PHOTO

You could say that the 19-1 Terra’s Angel had an angel on her shoulder in Monday’s $103,105 Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf. The $7,500 bargain basement Keeneland September yearling was making her turf debut in a contentious field of 14, for a trainer (Dallas Keen) who had yet to win a stakes at Del Mar or any race at the 2017 meet, and with a jockey (Sasha Risenhoover) new to the track and seeking her first local win.

But Terra’s Angel had the most inspiring story. She was named in honor of co-owner Terry Eoff’s daughter Terra, whose past battles with cancer sadly resurfaced just as her namesake was ready to hit the races in their home state of Texas.

Eoff, also the filly’s trainer for her May 13 debut at Lone Star, booked Risenhoover to ride. She’d worked her in the mornings.

“I already liked this filly a lot,” Risenhoover recalled in the Del Mar notes before Monday’s stakes, “but when Terry told me that story, it put a fire in me to win. I’ve got to win this for this girl.”

And so she did, to the delight of Terra watching her three-length victory from her San Antonio hospital room. Terra’s Angel brightened her spirits in her final days.

“She was crying the whole time, she was so happy,” Risenhoover said, describing a video of Terra enjoying the race. “I couldn’t take it. To see how happy that girl was. I just started bawling as I watched it. Sure enough, three days later she passed away.”

Terra’s Angel was only beginning her odyssey. Shipped to join Keen at Del Mar, she took a class hike for the August 6 Sorrento (G2) and garnered graded black-type when a clear third of seven. She added blinkers, stretched out to a mile, and switched surfaces for the Juvenile Fillies Turf, making it easy to prefer others.

Given a textbook passage by Risenhoover from post 11, Terra’s Angel broke sharply and secured a plum stalking position. When 9-5 favorite Medaglia Gold came back to the field after a too-exuberant first half-mile, Terra’s Angel was on the premises to take advantage. She swept to the fore, and accosted by the 46-1 One Fast Broad, refused to yield. One Fast Broad, representing the Del Mar Futurity (G1)-winning team of trainer Mick Ruis and jockey Corey Nakatani, kept up the pressure.

Every time Terra’s Angel appeared vulnerable to being passed, the Drosselmeyer filly knuckled down again and maintained a half-length margin at the wire. Terra’s Angel, who finished the firm-turf mile in 1:37.57, rewarded her clever and sentimental backers alike with a $40 win mutuel.

Multiplayer rattled home too late in third, edging fellow deep closer Klosters. Medaglia Gold faded to 10th.

Bred by Hargus and Sandra Sexton in partnership with Silver Fern Farm, Terra’s Angel is out of the Vindication mare Vindicated Angel. Her dam is a half-sister to stakes-winning Mi Chiamano Mimi, from the same female line as Canadian champion Magic Code and another “Terra” – multiple Grade 3 queen Terra Promessa.

Terra’s Angel has now bankrolled $96,420 from her 3-2-0-1 record for Eoff and co-owner Johnny Evans, but her story is priceless. Can there be another chapter in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) over the same course and distance?

Quotes from Del Mar

Winning rider Sasha Risenhoover: “This is so special. Words can’t begin to tell. This is the most special race I’ve ever been involved in in my life. My first win in California; $100,000; I just don’t know what to say. I’ve believed in this filly since day one. Knowing the story behind her, it just put a fire in me. I wanted to win on her so much. She is so special. And so is this.”

Trainer Dallas Keen on Risenhoover’s relationship with Terra’s Angel: “Sasha told me she wanted to be laying there close and this has been her filly from day one. The filly runs good for her and it’s a good matchup. We were having kind of a rough meet other than the third in the Sorrento (with Terra’s Angel). This is a nice one to wind up with. We had a good meet.”

Jockey Corey Nakatani on runner-up One Fast Broad: “We only wanted to make one run with her. She’s only had the one race (a Cal-restricted sprint maiden August 4), so we didn’t want to do too much with her. But we switched her over to grass today and she did fine.”

Tyler Baze, who rode Multiplayer to a third-place effort: “Good race for her. She ran great.”