February 28, 2024

Red Ghost sneaks back to deny Euphoric, Joyful Cadence in Miss Preakness

Red Ghost wins Miss Preakness S. 2021
Red Ghost (on rail) wins the Miss Preakness S. 2021 (Bill Denver/Maryland Jockey Club)

Three-way finishes became a theme at Pimlico Friday, from the grassy The Very One S. and Hilltop S. to the Miss Preakness S. (G3) on dirt.

Miss Preakness S. (G3)

Douglas Scharbauer’s homebred Red Ghost looked beaten in the $150,000 Miss Preakness S. (G3) when pace rival Euphoric took over turning into the stretch, and stalking Joyful Cadence made her bid. But the 2.10-1 favorite came back on the rail to regain the advantage by a nose.

Piloted by hot-riding John Velazquez, who scored three wins on the card, Red Ghost scampered to the early lead. The Wesley Ward sophomore had no peace, however, with Euphoric forcing the issue through fractions of :22.88 and :45.80. Euphoric appeared to put Red Ghost away, only to find Joyful Cadence bearing down and appearing poised to go on with it.

Yet the opposite happened. As Joyful Cadence stalled, Euphoric reasserted, and hidden on the inside, Red Ghost made stealthy headway to erase a 1 1/2-length deficit. The trio crossed the wire abreast, and the resurgent Red Ghost got the verdict by a nose from Euphoric. Joyful Cadence was another head away.

Added drama came in the form of a stewards’ inquiry, and a rider’s objection, into the start. Euphoric broke inward from post 7, coming over on Prodigy Doll in post 6, and to her inside, Street Lute was also involved in the chain reaction. Street Lute’s jockey, Xavier Perez, claimed foul against Euphoric, but the stewards allowed the result to stand.

Juror Number Four, another affected by the rough start, rallied from last for fourth. Abrogate, who reared in the gate prior to the start and dislodged Ricardo Santana, flashed speed briefly to chase before retreating to fifth. Next came the hampered Street Lute, Paradise Song, and Prodigy Doll. Inject was scratched.

Red Ghost negotiated six furlongs in 1:10.53 to earn her first stakes victory, and her resume now reads 4-3-0-0, $182,200. A debut romper in an off-the-turf dash at Saratoga last summer, the chestnut wound up seventh as the 18-10 favorite in the Untapable S. at Kentucky Downs. She returned to beat males in an April 16 Keeneland allowance and continued her progress into the graded ranks here.

The Ghostzapper filly is the fourth stakes winner produced by Better Than Most, following More Than Most, Worldventurer, and W V Jetsetter. Better Than Most is by Elusive Quality and out of Alysbelle, who is a full sister to the Scharbauer family’s Hall of Famer Alysheba.

Hilltop S.

Velazquez later engineered the winning trip aboard 7.70-1 chance Alda in the $100,000 Hilltop S. The Wertheimer et Frere homebred was well placed early, and thereby stole a march on the deep-closing Seasons and Arm Candy in a frenetic finish.

Seasons was up against it from the break, when she stumbled to her knees and found herself far back. Meanwhile, Alda, who took up a perch in fifth, delivered a perfectly timed move to strike the front in the stretch. The Graham Motion trainee made the most of her trip to stave off the hard-luck Seasons by a neck in 1:35.06 for the grassy mile.

Arm Candy was another nose back in third. The trifecta fillies had a two-length margin over Mia Martina, who bested 16-10 favorite Bubbles on Ice by a neck for fourth. Tracy Flick, hard to handle early when rank and barging into Phantom Vision, checked in sixth. Phantom Vision did well to contend after that but ultimately faded to seventh, trailed by Speed Lane, Serenade a Kitten, Journeytothemoon, and tailed-off pacesetter Proper Attire. Double Fireball, Il Malocchio, and Out of Sorts were all withdrawn.

Alda has bankrolled $186,950 from her 7-3-1-1 line, reflecting a score in last year’s Catch a Glimpse S. at Woodbine and runner-up effort in the Natalma (G1). Twelfth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), she shortened up for the April 9 Limestone Turf Sprint back at Keeneland and reported home sixth. That put her right for the stretch-out at Pimlico.

The Kentucky-bred is a Munnings half-sister to Alignement, the 2018 Prix Dollar (G2) winner. Their dam, the Maria’s Mon mare Soldata, is a full sister to Exhi who scored his signature wins over Keeneland’s old Polytrack in the 2010 Lexington (G2) and 2011 Ben Ali (G3). Alda’s fourth dam is Canadian Hall of Famer and influential matron Fanfreluche.

The Very One S.

As a competitive five-furlong turf scramble, the $100,000 The Very One S. had the potential to serve up a thriller, and so it did in a blistering :56.21. Trainer Elizabeth Merryman’s homebred Caravel overcame traffic in time to nip Gotta Go Mo and Victory Kingdom in a three-way photo.

Under Florent Geroux, the 2.30-1 favorite was on hold tracking the leaders on the inside, and had to tap the brakes a couple of times. Caravel didn’t get space to maneuver between foes until well into the stretch. By that point, Gotta Go Mo had rallied widest of all, with Victory Kingdom alongside to tussle.

Caravel burst through once clear in the final yards to join them as the heads bobbed toward the wire. The camera proved that her gray nose was down before Gotta Go Mo, who was herself just a nose up on Victory Kingdom. The top three pulled 1 1/4 lengths clear of Dixieincandyland in fourth.

The Pennsylvania-bred Caravel improved her record to 7-5-0-2, $212,872. Her prior stakes victories had come on the Presque Isle Downs Tapeta in the Malvern Rose for state-breds as well as the Lady Erie last season. Caravel’s only loss as a sophomore was also her lone route attempt, a third in the Hilltop here. She resumed with a third in the April 30 License Fee at Belmont.

By Mizzen Mast, Caravel is out of the Congrats mare Zeezee Zoomzoom, herself a daughter of Grade 2-placed multiple stakes scorer Zee Zee.