Cherie DeVaux registered her first graded stakes victory as a trainer in Saturday’s $150,000 Regret S. (G3), the highlight of three turf stakes on Stephen Foster Preview Day at Churchill Downs.
Regret S. (G3)
The 6-1 Gam’s Mission mowed down 7-5 favorite Spanish Loveaffair to score a new career high for herself and for DeVaux. Sporting the Lazy F Ranch silks synonymous with Hall of Famer Forego, the homebred extended her winning streak to three in her stakes debut.
Spanish Loveaffair argued the pace early with DeVaux’s other runner, Belladonna Racing’s Postnup. Over a good course on a dreary day, Postnup held a narrow advantage through fractions of :24.55 and :49.56. Spanish Loveaffair headed her by the six-furlong mark in 1:14.27 and began to pull away, but Flown drew near to challenge in midstretch.
By that point, Gam’s Mission was kicking into gear from midpack. The daughter of Noble Mission found her best stride late in the 1 1/8-mile affair, driving home by three-quarters of a length in 1:51.02. She’s now 3-for-3 with Adam Beschizza aboard.
Spaish Loveaffair saved second by a head from Flown, with Oyster Box rolling belatedly into fourth. Barista, Munnyfor Ro, Line Dancing, and Postnup rounded out the order of finish. Saranya was withdrawn.
Gam’s Mission has bankrolled $201,258 from her 4-3-1-0 line. Her only loss came in her career debut on this Matt Winn turf course, when best of the rest behind Aunt Pearl on Sept. 1. That form worked out last fall as Aunt Pearl went on to romp in the Jessamine (G2) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). Gam’s Mission wasn’t seen again, however, until a March 21 maiden at Fair Grounds. Up by a neck despite a wide trip, she followed up with another determined rally in an entry-level allowance here on May 8, and passed this class test against seasoned stakes rivals.
The Kentucky-bred was produced by Auntie Martha, a daughter of War Pass and 1998 Flower Bowl H. (G1) heroine Auntie Mame.
Bet down considerably from an 8-1 morning line, Calumet Farm’s homebred Cellist went off as the 2.80-1 second choice in the $150,000 Audubon S., and the market support proved well founded. The Rusty Arnold trainee dictated a slow pace and held Palazzi safe late.
Cellist was making his stakes debut after a near-miss in a Keeneland allowance, where a slow start took him out of his game. Two starts back, he broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park by mixing it up on the front end. A return to his preferred tactics helped him become the first stakes winner sired by champion Big Blue Kitten.
Under regular rider Julien Leparoux, Cellist carved out splits of :25.54, :51.20, and 1:16.12. Royal Prince attended in second, until caught flat-footed when Cellist spurted away into the stretch. Palazzi was the only rival to gain ground down the lane, but got no closer than three-quarters of a length.
Royal Prince checked in another 2 1/2 lengths back in a one-paced third. Next came the stalking Hidden Enemy; Like the King, the 2.30-1 favorite who failed to quicken; Holy Vow, a projected pace factor who was never involved after hopping out of the gate; and slow-starting Cave Hill. Haddassah was scratched.
Cellist negotiated 1 1/8 grassy miles in 1:51.53 to improve his mark to 4-2-1-0, $131,740. The Kentucky-bred bay is out of the English Channel mare Cello, a full sister to multiple Grade 3 hero and near-millionaire Optimizer. This is also the family of multiple Grade 1 queen Finder’s Fee, ancestress of highly regarded debut romper Flightline.
Douglas Park S.
About an hour after Fulsome romped in the Matt Winn (G3), the same connections – Juddmonte Farms, trainer Brad Cox, and jockey Florent Geroux – enjoyed another dominant victory courtesy of 6-5 favorite Set Piece in the $85,500 Douglas Park S. The British-bred gelding was scoring his second straight stakes win at Churchill, after the April 29 Opening Verse on “Thurby.”
Set Piece had a rocky start, bumped and shuffled back, but the late runner shrugged it off while settling in a customary spot well back. Meanwhile, Gray’s Fable was the controlling speed, if perhaps a bit too free-wheeling in the conditions when clocking :24.02, :48.47, and 1:13.33.
Once Set Piece loomed full of run in upper stretch, the only question was how far. The answer was four lengths. The son of Dansili overwhelmed Gray’s Fable passing the eighth pole and drew off to complete 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.13.
Ramsey Solution finished well for second, and another length astern came Another Mystery, both in pleasing comebacks from six-month layoffs. Gray’s Fable tired to fourth, just losing third in a photo. Parlor was a non-threatening fifth, followed by Artemus Eagle and Pioneer Spirit after the scratches of Logical Myth and Split the Wickets.
Set Piece’s resume now reads 15-8-1-1, $257,008. Originally trained by Hugo Palmer, the bay won his first two starts on the British all-weather. He was regarded well enough to try the classic trail, placing third in the 2019 Craven (G3), but found himself out of his depth in the 2000 Guineas (G1). After trailing in the Prix de Tourgeville, Set Piece underwent wind surgery as well as a gelding operation that summer. He rebounded back on Kempton’s Polytrack in the Hyde S. in his British finale.
Set Piece joined Cox stateside for 2020 and plied his trade in allowance company until capturing the Dec. 31 Prairie Bayou on the Turfway Park Tapeta. He was runner-up in the March 27 Kentucky Cup Classic at the same venue.
Out of the Kingmambo mare Portadora, Set Piece is a half-brother to multiple French stakes winner and Group 3-placed Alocasia. His third dam is the prolific matron Modena.