June 19, 2024

Unbeaten Jolie Olimpica sets course record in Las Cienegas; Queen all heart in La Canada

Jolie Olimpica sets a course record in her U.S. debut in the Las Cienegas © BENOIT PHOTO

Unbeaten Brazilian star Jolie Olimpica made quite a statement in her course-record U.S. premiere in Saturday’s $100,000 Las Cienegas (G3) at Santa Anita. The 6-5 favorite cruised 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:01.00 in the style of a filly bound for bigger things on the turf distaff scene.

Representing the same connections as soon-to-retire Omaha Beach – Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms and the Hall of Fame trainer/jockey tandem of Richard Mandella and Mike Smith – Jolie Olimpica had not raced since June 9 at Gavea. In that Grande Premio Jockey Club Brasileiro (G1) over a metric mile on heavy going, the daughter of Drosselmeyer slammed males by six lengths.

Jolie Olimpica met entirely different conditions here, a firm-turf sprint, but again revealed her talent. The chestnut recovered from a bit of a bobble at the break, tracked front-running Kentan Road through splits of :22.00 and :44.22, and asserted readily under a mere hand ride. Her 1 1/4-length margin was as the rider pleased, or else it could have been more.

Storm the Hill, the 3-2 second choice, crossed the line another 2 1/4 lengths back in third. An Eddie Surprise and Free Cover were fourth and fifth of the quintet at every call.

With Mandella at Gulfstream Park to supervise Omaha Beach’s preparation for the Pegasus World Cup (G1), his son Gary was on hand to tend Jolie Olimpica:

“She adapted quicker than most South American imports. A couple of the really good horses Dad’s had over the years took a while to adjust. She was quicker than they were.

“We didn’t necessarily expect her to break that fast, because if you watch her replays in South America, she didn’t always just leave there super-quick. He wasn’t sure if she’d get outrun a little the first part or if she’d do what she did. You don’t know until you put them out there.

“She had a perfect trip. Mike did a great job with her. She was a little upset in the paddock, but Mike got her calmed down in the post parade. He had her in the right frame of mind to break well. Give all the credit to Mike on that. The track record? We’ll take it.”

“I just listened to what Mr. Mandella told me this morning,” Smith told Santa Anita publicity. “He said, ‘She trains like she’s really quick, maybe a little too quick, so be still leaving there. If she puts you (up on the pace) fine, if not give her a chance to settle and she should finish. She should want to go a little further than this as well.’

“The best part of the race was running underneath the wire to be honest with you. She galloped out well within herself, she wasn’t winded at all. She should get a mile for sure any day.”

Smith also made sure to recall her sire, his old partner Drosselmeyer.

“I was happy to be on a Drosselmeyer. I was blessed enough to win the Belmont (G1) (in 2010) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) on him (in 2011), and this is his first offspring I’ve gotten a chance to ride.”

Jolie Olimpica has bankrolled $111,520 from her perfect 4-for-4 mark. Her three prior starts came during her two-year-old season at Gavea, and she justified heavy favoritism each time. A 4 1/4-length debut winner on Feb. 23, she easily handled stakes company in the April 28 Grande Premio Adayr Eiras de Araujo (G3) on the way to her signature win in the Jockey Club Brasileiro. That marked her final outing for Haras Regina and trainer Roberto Solanes. Bloodstock agent John Fulton assisted in her importation by Fox Hill Farms.

Bred by Stud TNT, Jolie Olimpica was foaled in August 2016 and thus is still physically a sophomore. The fact she was able to win so well versus Northern Hemisphere elders is another sign of her quality. She is out of the Group 1-placed Trempolino mare Jolie Celina, who is also responsible for Group 2 winner Domenica and Group 1-placed Rock in Bage.

Queen Bee to You outduels Der Lu in the La Canada

Later on the card, the $200,500 La Canada (G3) lost its headliner with the scratch of Spiced Perfection, but made up for it with a stretch-long battle between Queen Bee to You and Der Lu. Cal-bred Queen Bee to You, in the form of her life at present, outdueled her foe to win the photo by a nose.

Trained by Andrew Lerner and ridden by Ruben Fuentes, the 2-1 chance was extending her streak to three following the Nov. 17 Betty Grable and the Dec. 8 Bayakoa (G3). In the early going, Queen Bee to You was stuck behind pacesetter Der Lu through an opening quarter in :24.00. But Der Lu left the door open on the rail, and Queen Bee to You slipped through to take over after a half in :48.06.

“I thought my horse was getting rank,” Fuentes recapped, “but the pace was a little slow and that’s why she was pulling. Thankfully, the rail was open and I took that spot, I realized I was going a little slow, so I said I’m in the perfect spot. Once she made the lead, she relaxed real nice. My plan was to angle outside and put the pressure on the other filly (Der Lu), but we ended up inside and she fought back.”

Although Queen Bee to You had her head in front at the six-furlong mark in 1:12.35, Der Lu was traveling well turning for home and regained a slim advantage in midstretch. The gutsy Queen Bee to You refused to yield, though, and came again to clock 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.36.

Zusha, who stumbled at the start, was a game third by a head from rail-rallying Kaydetre. The 3-2 favorite, Horologist, retreated to fifth, trailed by Message. Spiced Perfection was withdrawn in favor of the Jan. 25 Inside Information (G2) at Gulfstream, according to Daily Racing Form.

Queen Bee to You has reached a new level since switching to Lerner. Placed in a handful of stakes for previous trainer Michael Pender, she broke through in the June 29 Bertrando in her debut for the barn. The 6-year-old daughter of Old Topper now sports a mark of 33-8-11-5, $658,770.

A relative newcomer to the training ranks, who sent out his first runner in 2017, Lerner praised the mare’s attitude and the jockey’s ride.

“She has been training so well, she’s coming into each race so happy and doing so extremely well. The plan wasn’t to be that close, but in the paddock she was so much on the muscle, I told Ruben, ‘She’s not gonna let you hold her back this time.’ So I got a little nervous that he wasn’t able to get outside, but what a brilliant ride by Ruben – he’s just done so good for us.

“She’s just one of those gritty mares that wants to win.  She’s just all heart and you gotta love horses like that. It’s unbelievable, just to saddle next to guys like Bob Baffert, Richard Mandella and Richie Baltas, guys I’ve looked up to growing up and going to the races. It’s incredible to be in the same paddock with them, but to be standing here in the winner’s circle, it means a lot.”

Co-owners Christopher St. Hilaire and Adam Vali are also aware of their good fortune.

“It’s incredible – this is the only horse that I own,” Vali said. “I am just happy to be along for the ride.”

St. Hilaire explained his new nom de course, An Equal Amount of Blueberries, and his association with Fuentes:

“An equal amount of Blueberries is the most famous line from Casino, one of my favorite movies. All of the horses we own will be run under that name in the future.

“It is absolutely incredible. I called Ruben six months ago in the evening, I said I think you are the best young rider out there and were gonna give you first choice on all of our mounts and it has turned out to be the right move. He’s talent. To pass like he did after being passed, it is not an easy task.”

Fuentes is grateful for the chance.

“I want to thank everyone who always gives me an opportunity,” Fuentes said. “I always try my best.”

Queen Bee to You would say the same.