Sunday’s $150,000 Rancho Bernardo H. (G3) was a virtual match race between defending champion Edgeway and prime challenger Slammed, both in the betting and on the racetrack. The 9-10 shots staged a thriller at Del Mar, with Edgeway just prevailing in the final strides of the 6 1/2-furlong dash.
The Hronis Racing colorbearer also shaded Slammed in the win pool and went off as the slight favorite. The opponent most eligible to break up the duopoly, Private Mission, was scratched.
Edgeway accordingly ended up on the outside of the five-horse field, in a tactical position that might have made the difference. With Juan Hernandez taking over the reins, the John Sadler mare tracked in third as Slammed did the work of forcing the pace.
The speedy Dance to the Music showed the way through the opening quarter in :22.05, then bowed out as the big two hooked up. Slammed moved first at the half in :44.85, but Edgeway wasn’t about to let her get the jump. The defending champ briefly asserted on the far turn, only to have Slammed come back doggedly on the inside.
The sustained battle was joined, no quarter given. Slammed counterpunched effectively enough to regain a slim advantage. For a few strides, Edgeway appeared in danger of losing her crown. But when the supreme moment came, she found extra to will her way past. A half-length on top at the wire, Edgeway clocked 1:15.97.
“She is a really good filly, really professional,” Hernandez said. “She was standing really good, and when (the gate) opened she broke really sharp. The other filly battled with me and was trying to come back at me again, but my filly is a big strong filly and she knows where the wire is. She looked for the wire and in the last sixteenth she picked it up. I was working a little bit harder, but she responded to me.”
Slammed, the pride of New Mexico, did her home state proud in her graded debut. The hard-trying runner-up finished 7 1/2 lengths clear of Cover Version, the 37-1 longest shot on the board who recovered from a troubled start to snatch third. Empire House and Dance to the Music rounded out the order under the wire.
Edgeway has emulated two-time Rancho Bernardo winners Mama Kali (1975-76), Kalookan Queen (2001-02), and Behaving Badly (2005-06), but Track Gal owns the record for her three-peat (1995-97).
“It was a good win for her,” Sadler said. “It wasn’t easy. She gutted it out; it was a really good horse race and we’re happy. We had a lot of seconds and thirds this week, so I was a little grumpy-face, but with horse races it’s a new day every day.
“She’s one that needs spacing,” Sadler added. “She won’t run again now until the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland.”
Edgeway will try to go one better in the Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), where she was runner-up last year. Breeders’ Cup champion Ce Ce also ran on Sunday, but not up to form, with a lackluster fifth in the Ballerina H. (G1) at Saratoga.
Edgeway’s scorecard stands at 13-8-2-1, $753,860. Unraced at two after selling for $275,000 at OBS April, the Competitive Edge filly started off in promising fashion at Oaklawn Park in 2020. She romped on debut and placed third to Kimari and Frank’s Rockette in the Purple Martin S. Her limited sophomore campaign concluded with a runner-up effort in the Dogwood (G3) at Churchill Downs. Edgeway’s first stakes tally came back in Hot Springs in the 2021 Carousel S. She opened 2022 by taking a pair of Santa Anita stakes, the Kalookan Queen S. (honoring the aforementioned sprint star) and Las Flores (G3), but suffered a tough-trip sixth in Churchill’s Derby City Distaff (G1) last out. Edgeway rebounded off the break on Sunday.
Thus the freshness angle suits her well going into the Breeders’ Cup. Indeed, Edgeway is following the same playbook from 2021, when advancing straight from the Rancho Bernardo to the Filly & Mare Sprint. Then it was held at Del Mar, so the new factor this time is the Breeders’ Cup host site of Keeneland.
Edgeway, who first toured the Keeneland sales ring when bringing $35,000 as a November weanling, was bred in Kentucky by Pope McLean, Valerie Blethen, and David Blethen. Her dam, the stakes-winning Magical Solution, is a Stormin Fever half-sister to 2012 Vosburgh (G1) hero and Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) runner-up The Lumber Guy.