LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A strong fourth in last month’s Madison (G1) following an eight-month layoff, American Gal improved off that run to notch the second Grade 1 of her career in Saturday’s $300,000 Humana Distaff (G1), the first stakes on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs.
Under Jose Ortiz, American Gal traded leads with 5-2 favorite Finley’sluckycharm through fractions of :23.03 and :45.63, put that rival away in upper stretch, and held off a minor bid from Ivy Bell to win by two lengths in a time of 1:22.33 over a muddy track.
“Today with a race under her belt, way much better today,” said Ortiz, who had rode the four-year-old filly in the neck defeat after setting a contested pace.
“I didn’t want anybody putting pressure on me early on the outside, so I stayed as wide as I could on the backside. And then we passed the three-eighths pole, going to the quarter pole I tried to engage Finley’sluckycharm, but I think last time (jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.) was outside putting pressure on me, and today I was outside putting pressure on him and that was the difference from last time to this time. And it worked out for him last time and it worked out for me this time.”
Owned and bred by Kaleem Shah and trained by Simon Callaghan, American Gal returned $7.80 as the third choice in a field of seven. Finishing third was Lewis Bay, followed by Finley’sluckycharm, Torrent, Skye Diamonds, and Miner’s Cat.
This second top-level win followed last summer’s Test (G1) at Saratoga, a race American Gal won by four lengths. She appears a serious, long-term prospect for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), which will be run at Churchill in November over seven furlongs.
American Gal was initially trained by Bob Baffert, who in 2016 conditioned her to wins in a Del Mar maiden and the $71,000 Anoakia at Santa Anita, followed by a third as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and a second to Abel Tasman in the Starlet (G1) at Los Alamitos.
In an abbreviated campaign last season for Callaghan, American Gal preceded her Test score with a 4 3/4-length triumph in the Victory Ride (G3) at Belmont. Her record now stands at 8-5-1-1, $904,980.
By Concord Point and out of the Grade 2-placed American Story, by Ghostzapper, American Gal is a full sister to Grade 2-placed stakes winner Americanize.
The Kentucky-bred’s second dam is multiple stakes winner Holiday Runner, who reared Grade/Group 1 winners Seventh Street and Reynaldothewizard.