December 6, 2022

Vasilika surges late, extends streak to four in Gamely

Vasilika and jockey Flavien Prat win the Gamely Stakes (G1) on Memorial Day Monday, May 27, 2019, at Santa Anita Park © BENOIT PHOTO

Backers of even-money favorite Vasilika might have been growing a little anxious in the stretch of Monday’s $501,053 Gamely (G1), but the West Coast’s top turf female kicked into gear in time to notch her fourth straight victory. Confidently handled by regular rider Flavien Prat, the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee surged past Chad Brown shipper Rymska and won by a comfortable length.

Vasilika, famously claimed by Hollendorfer for $40,000 in February 2018, is now a seven-time graded stakes winner. Six of those have come on this Santa Anita course, including last fall’s Rodeo Drive (G1) and Goldikova (G2) and this term’s Megahertz (G3), Buena Vista (G2), and Royal Heroine (G2) last out on April 6.

With a local mark of 11-for-12 – a neck shy of perfection – Vasilika can claim home field advantage if she tries the Breeders’ Cup. Yet the Filly & Mare Turf (G1) would present much stiffer competition than her typical fare. Note that her most recent loss, a fourth in last December’s Matriarch (G1) at Del Mar, was inflicted by a trio of East Coast invaders.

Yet Vasilika invariably tries, and her willingness was on display in the Gamely. Front runner Ahimsa attempted to steal it through moderate fractions of :24.37, :48.52, and 1:12.12 on the good turf, and she continued to hold sway well into the stretch. Vasilika, who had been settled a couple of lengths behind on the outside, commenced her bid, while Rymska got the enviable split between foes. But once Vasilika built up her momentum, she was irresistible in completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.07.

Ahimsa checked in another half-length astern in third. Next came Elysea’s World, Meal Ticket, Streak of Luck, Ollie’s Candy, and Causeforcommotion.

Campaigned by Hollendorfer in partnership with All Schlaich Stables, Gatto Racing, and George Todaro, Vasilika improved her resume to 32-17-4-3, $1,358,595. The chestnut compiled an eight-race winning streak last season, climbing the class ranks and scoring her first stakes victory in the John C. Mabee (G2) at Del Mar.

Vasilika was initially trained by her breeder, Mikhail Yanakov. The Kentucky-bred is easily the best performer sired by the Skip Away stallion Skipshot. Vasilika is out of the winning Marquetry mare La Belle Marquet, a full sister to Grade 2-placed multiple stakes victor Chris’s Bad Boy, who set Woodbine records on both the main track and the turf course.

Quotes from Santa Anita

Hall of Fame trainer and co-owner Jerry Hollendorfer: “She has the turn of foot that most horses don’t have, but anyway, she continues to do it. Today Prat didn’t like where he was, so he let her drift back a little so he could get out of where he was. He didn’t like being in between horses, so luckily for us, once she saw daylight, she still had that big turn of foot.”

His best claim ever? “I think so, yeah. Probably so.”

On Breeders’ Cup possibility: “It certainly would be a consideration, although they’ve taken the ‘Win and You’re’ (fees-paid berth to the race) off of this race.

“She’s a very professional mare. She always likes being in our barn so I’m happy to have her that’s for sure.”

Winning rider Flavien Prat: “I knew we would be fairly close to the lead. I took hold of her on the last turn and took her outside. She does everything I ask of her. I’m just a lucky man. This filly knows how to win. She knows what to do.  It is quite amazing to be around her.”

Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. on runner-up Rymska:  “There wasn’t much pace, so they were bunched. We needed some separation to get out, so I had to wait and work my way through horses. We did the best we could.”