At opposite ends of the country on Sunday afternoon, a pair of fillies and mares parlayed fast finishes into confident graded stakes triumphs.
The first to shine was Tapit Today, a daughter of Tapit conditioned by four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown. Disregarded at odds of 5-1 in the Athenia (G3) at Belmont Park, Tapit Today settled in third place through 6 furlongs in 1:13.11, then rallied to engage pacesetter Mitchell Road in the homestretch. The two mares arrived at the eighth pole locked together, but down the lane Tapit Today kicked clear, sprinting the final sixteenth in :05.97 to win by a length under Jose Ortiz.
Owned by William H. Lawrence and Bradley Thoroughbreds, Tapit Today completed the 1 1/16-mile turf race in 1:42.56 to secure the first stakes win of her career. Mitchell Road held on gamely to preserve the runner-up spot, followed by She’s Got You, Feel Glorious, favored Call Me Love, Altea, Sweet Bye and Bye, and Story Time.
“She had an outside post and I tried to ride her like she was the best and control the race a little bit if I had enough horse, and I did,” Ortiz told the New York Racing Association. “Past the half-mile, I had the favorite right inside of me and I controlled the race from the three-eighths pole to the wire.”
Brown attributed Tapit Today’s victory to her ideal trip racing outside of rivals.
“She had a great trip today. Jose and I spoke about it in the paddock and looking at all her races, it seems like she’s a clear-running horse,” Brown said. “She runs a bit better out in the clear. She can be a little temperamental.”
A similar trip reaped dividends for Maxim Rate in the Goldikova (G2) at Santa Anita. Following a slow start, the gray daughter of Exchange Rate settled in fifth place under jockey Umberto Rispoli, gradually edging closer as front-running favorite Raymundos Secret carved out testing fractions of :22.79, :46.20, and 1:09.92.
The fast pace caused Raymundos Secret to crack, but Maxim Rate was thoroughly unaffected. Rallying into contention on the outside, Maxim Rate flew home the final quarter in :23 4/5 to complete the one-mile turf test in 1:33.85. Her quick finish saw her cruise home 2 1/2 lengths in front of fellow late runner Zee Drop, while Tonahutu, Raymundos Secret, Silberpfeil, Atomic Blonde, and Hang a Star trailed the field.
Maxim Rate’s wide and unencumbered trip was executed by design. Recognizing that Maxim Rate is a stakes winner running 1 3/8 miles, Rispoli concluded racing wide over a mile would produce a clean trip without exhausting his mount’s abundant stamina.
“We know that she can go further in the distance, and that’s why I wasn’t afraid to go a mile and three wide,” explained Rispoli. “Everybody knows I like to save ground but that was not the case. I knew that she could go further, and she responded really well. When she took the lead she kind of pulled herself up a little bit, but she’s definitely improving and I think she still can improve.”
Trained by Simon Callaghan on behalf of Slam Dunk Racing and James D. Branham, Maxim Rate previously won the 2019 Senorita (G3) racing a mile at Santa Anita. The improving 4-year-old entered the Goldikova off a runner-up effort in the 1 1/4-mile Rodeo Drive (G1) and appears poised for a productive fall/winter campaign.
“She was always a very good filly, won her first time out and then she just plateaued a little bit as a 3-year-old, so we gave her some time off,” said Callaghan. “Thankfully the owners were really patient with her and that really helped her develop. I think she definitely is a better filly now, but I honestly think there’s more scope for improvement. Obviously a very exciting filly for the future.”
The Nov. 29 Matriarch (G1) at Del Mar is next on the agenda for Maxim Rate. And with the turf racing season winding down in New York, the Matriarch could also be a viable target for Tapit Today, potentially setting up a late-season showdown between two improving turf stars.