In a division transcending performance, War Like Goddess dominated male rivals on Saturday when taking the $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) at Aqueduct by 2 3/4 lengths for owner George Krikorian and trainer Bill Mott.
With the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) at a reduced distance of 1 3/16 miles this year, War Like Goddess was using the Turf Classic as a potential prep for the 1 1/2-mile Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). War Like Goddess passed this initial test against the boys with flying colors using an ideal stalk-and-pounce trip.
Ridden by Jose Lezcano, War Like Goddess rated in third much of the way while Bye Bye Melvin attempt to steal the three-turn event contested on ground labeled good. Given he was the lone speed, Bye Bye Melvin’s pace was a fairly honest :24.25, :48.96, 1:13.68, 1:39.1, and 2:03.40.
Challenged by War Like Goddess in upper stretch, Bye Bye Melvin yielded readily, and the five-year-old mare drew off to win comfortably as the odds-on choice. She returned $3.90 and stopped the timer in 2:27.29 over the inner turf.
Bye Bye Melvin held second by three parts of a length over 67-1 outsider Astronaut. Rockemperor and Soldier Rising dead-heated for fourth and were followed by Adhamo and Gufo.
War Like Goddess is the fifth female winner of the Turf Classic in the seven times it has been run at Aqueduct. The race was last run at the Big A in 1983, when it was captured by eventual Horse of the Year All Along. Champion April Run captured the 1981 and 1982 editions, while Anifa won in 1980.
The beaten favorite in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) over 1 3/8 miles, War Like Goddess will stay at her preferred longer trip for the Nov. 5 Turf at Keeneland. War Like Goddess has won the past two editions of the Bewitch S. (G3) over the course and distance.
“I always thought she belonged,” Mott said. “There’s good horses and she could get outrun, but I think she deserves an opportunity, for sure. I don’t think we’re out of line whatsoever. We’re a long ways from the winner’s circle, but I think she deserves her opportunity. She’s done nothing wrong.”
The Filly and Mare Turf was the only stakes loss last season for War Like Goddess, who captured the Orchid (G3), Glens Falls (G2), and Flower Bowl (G1) in addition to the Bewitch. This year she followed up her Bewitch title defense with another score in the Glens Falls, but bid too late and missed by a neck in the Flower Bowl (G2) last time.
Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, War Like Goddess is by turf champion English Channel, who won the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Monmouth Park. She was produced by Misty North, a daughter of North Light.