November 27, 2021

Gift List romps, Aunt Pearl fades in Edgewood

Gift List
Gift List, with Javier Castellano up, wins the Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs (Photography by Jamie Newell/TwinSpires)

A European import drew off with utter dominance in Friday’s $300,000 Edgewood S. (G2) at Churchill Downs, but it wasn’t hitherto unbeaten 3-10 favorite Aunt Pearl. As the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) heroine faded in the stretch, British-bred Gift List rolled as the 4.40-1 second choice. The favorite was also well beaten in the $250,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2), with 4.20-1 Fast Boat motoring late and the 2.30-1 Fiya giving way to last.

Edgewood S. (G2)

It’s the age-old question for top two-year-olds resuming at three: has the sophomore progressed over the winter, or is the old developmental edge gone? Although conclusions can’t be drawn from one race, the way Aunt Pearl folded tamely in fifth invites at least a quizzical eye.

Securing her customary role in front, Aunt Pearl clicked off fractions of :24.32, :49.03, and 1:13 on the good course. Zaajel, making her turf debut, attended the pace but came under pressure on the far turn and retreated. That was just about the time Aunt Pearl was expected to spurt away, only she came up empty.

Amerman Racing’s Gift List, who had been perched in a groundsaving third, angled out at the top of the lane and inhaled the favorite. The Brian Lynch pupil opened up by a dominant 4 1/4 lengths, covering 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.52 with Javier Castellano.

The 23-1 Barista rallied for second, 2 1/2 lengths clear of a blanket finish for third. Line Dancing, a 21-1 shot, nipped Queen of the Green and Aunt Pearl for the show spot. Postnup checked in sixth, and Zaajel trailed.

Gift List was coming off a strong U.S. debut in the April 3 Appalachian (G2) at Keeneland, where she gained some ground in second despite a slow pace. Previously trained by Karl Burke in England, the daughter of Bated Breath won on Newcastle’s Tapeta and at Redcar before placing in better company. She was runner-up in the lucrative Tattersalls October Auction Race at Newmarket and in the Radley at Newbury.

With her stakes breakthrough in the Edgewood, Gift List advanced her record to 7-3-4-0, $281,814.

“I didn’t have any special instructions today – just play the break and go from there,” Castellano told track publicity. “She broke fine and I got a very good spot. Then when I asked her, she gave me some amazing acceleration. She was a special winner today.”

Lynch believed that Gift List was on the upswing since the Appalachian.

“Off the last race, in her first U.S. debut, she gave a great run that day in a race that had no pace. She’s really trained so well from her last start to this, even though we had to work her on the dirt, which was a new thing to her. She was very comfortable getting over it, and was getting plenty out of her works.

“I had a good feeling going into this race, that if Aunt Pearl were to stub her toe, we’d have a good shot. She (Aunt Pearl) was a big obstacle, no doubt. Undefeated filly. Breeders’ Cup winner.

“But we all know, and I’ve run into it myself with Oscar Performance, some of them take to this course and some just don’t. It had a little bit of give in it today, and my filly had some good races on soft and heavy turf. Maybe that had something to do with it.” 

Lynch’s gracious comment notwithstanding, Aunt Pearl had crushed her maiden in similar conditions on this same course, as well as in the Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland. Regular rider Florent Geroux cited her smaller size as a clue, suggesting she hasn’t the scope to improve at three.

“She was traveling great, going to the back side. She was relaxing,” Geroux said, “I just had no horse down the lane. She’s a very small filly. In my opinion, she did not move forward as much as some of those other horses.”

Gift List was bred by James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd. and first sold for 23,000 guineas as a Tattersalls October yearling. Cataloged at the same venue last December, she was withdrawn and eventually turned up stateside.

The chestnut is out of the Group 3-winning Machiavellian mare Birthstone, who is a half-sister to multiple Group 2-placed stakes victor Songcraft. Their dam, Group 3 scorer Baya, was runner-up in the 1993 French Oaks (G1). Gift List’s third dam, fellow Group 3 vixen and Group 1-placed Barger, is a full sister to the multiple champion racemare Triptych, both of out transatlantic champion Trillion.

Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2)

The handwriting was on the wall early for favorite backers when Fiya was embroiled in a pace duel. Just Might matched strides, a head up through an opening quarter in :22.15 and a head back at the half in :45.01. But Fiya appeared under more pressure, and he succumbed in the stretch. Just Might paid the price inside the final furlong himself as the closers bore down.

Picking up best of all wider out was Brad Grady’s Fast Boat. Trained by Joe Sharp and ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., the City Zip gelding bested Sombeyay by a half-length.

Classy John, fourth early, boxed on well to hold third. Defending champion Diamond Oops encountered trouble en route to finishing fourth. Next came Carotari, Johnny Unleashed, Smart Remark, Just Might, Guildsman, Ambassador Luna, and Fiya.

By clocking 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.29, Fast Boat improved to 3-for-4 on Churchill’s Matt Winn turf course.

“With him it’s surface,” Sharp said, “and, for some reason, all the rest of us love New Orleans and he’s the exception. He was training too well, like his old self, but when we’d lead him over in the afternoon (at Fair Grounds), we wouldn’t see the Fast Boat that we knew was there.”

Fast Boat was happier on a trip to Sam Houston last out, when scoring his first stakes win in the Jan. 31 Pulse Power Turf Sprint, the same race he was runner-up in a year ago.

“We saw it at Houston,” Sharp continued. “We sent him back to the farm (afterward) and Rosie (wife Napravnik) let him be a horse for 30 days and legged him back on the farm. We brought him back in, worked him three times, and luckily we got some sun and wind today (to dry it out after rain). He likes this turf course too, he’s 3-for-4 on it, and everything fell into place.”

“Brad Grady has been very patient with the horse over the years and giving him plenty of spacing between races.”

Fast Boat has compiled an overall mark of 24-9-1-3, $541,849. Bred by R.S. Evans in Kentucky, the six-year-old gelding was produced by the Lemon Drop Kid mare Yellow Boat.