April 23, 2024

Gala Brand outkicks the boys in With Anticipation

Gala Brand wins the With Anticipation (Photo by Adam Coglianese/Credit Chelsea Durand)

Astute anticipation of the Saratoga weather set the stage for Gala Brand to beat the boys in Thursday’s $175,000 With Anticipation (G3). The Bill Mott pupil was cross-entered to Wednesday’s P.G. Johnson S. for two-year-old fillies, as well as the Thursday feature, to keep her options open amid a dicey forecast.  The Wednesday stakes ended up being rained off the turf, and Gala Brand capitalized one day later when the With Anticipation went as scheduled on the inner course.

Mott credited Megan Jones of co-owner Arnmore Thoroughbreds for the clever insurance policy.

“I owe a lot to her,” Mott said. “She made sure she was nominated to both races, and the plan was to enter in both. She was ready to scratch yesterday even before they came off the grass because she wanted the better turf course. As it turned out, there was no decision to make.”

Mott had his bases covered in both stakes. His other P.G. Johnson entrant, Magic Cross, had raced only on dirt so far, and she was happy to stay on the main track Wednesday. The Good Magic filly, who was fourth in the Adirondack (G3) last out, also appreciated the step up to a mile and rolled by 4 1/2 lengths.

Like her stablemate, Gala Brand figured to enjoy stretching out in the 1 1/16-mile With Anticipation. Indeed, the flashy, white-spattered chestnut had done well to score on debut over 5 1/2 grassy furlongs here, with a scintillating rally from far back. The With Anticipation presented an entirely different scenario, as a route with a sedate pace, but Gala Brand again delivered a potent turn of foot.

New rider Jose Ortiz anchored the 2.90-1 second choice at the rear of the seven-horse field. Carson’s Run, the slight 2.55-1 favorite, was also content to switch off a few lengths behind the pace.

Market Street, the projected pacesetter, had things his own way through fractions of :25.02 and :51.61 on the good inner turf. Mott’s other hope, Get Spooled, who was expected to be part of the early scrum, put himself out of position by breaking a tad slowly. Advancing to stalk down the backstretch, Get Spooled became a threat by the six-furlong mark in 1:16.42, and he pounced down the lane.

The real action was already unfolding wider out on the course. Gala Brand was making eye-catching headway on the far outside, flanking Carson’s Run, who was rallying virtually in tandem. As the closers swamped Get Spooled, Carson’s Run appeared to have his head in front, but the filly kept charging determinedly.

Overtaking the favorite by a half-length, Gala Brand clocked 1:45.93 to become the first female to win the With Anticipation. This renewal of the race named after the venerable gelding, a five time Grade 1 star who ran until the age of nine, held special resonance; With Anticipation’s trainer, Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard, just passed away on Sunday. Thus it was fitting for the 2023 edition to make history with a memorable result.

Gala Brand, now 2-for-2, increased her bankroll to $141,900 for Arnmore Thoroughbreds and Even Keel Thoroughbreds.

“The main thing first time going long,” Ortiz said, “was to keep her in good rhythm and just let her be, and that’s what I did. I followed Dylan (Davis aboard Carson’s Run); I liked his horse. I saw him work the other day on the Oklahoma (training turf), and he worked very well. I followed him every step of the way until we hit the quarter-pole. I went outside of him and it worked out. She was full of run, very nice filly.”

Davis believed that Carson’s Run will improve with seasoning.

“They had a slow pace again,” Davis recapped. “I just tried to break well and get a good spot. I was happy with a two-wide trip in midpack. I was able to get a spot when I wanted to turning for home, and he was challenged by the winner.

“I thought he was going to take me all the way there, but he’s still learning to finish the fight a little bit. Even with his maiden win – he won by a neck – but still a little bit green. Again here, he fought hard and he’s still learning. I thought he moved up with this race and I think he’s got more to come. He’s a nice horse, he moves well.”

Spirit Prince did his best work late in third, 1 1/2 lengths adrift of Carson’s Run. Next came the pair who dead-heated for fourth, Get Spooled and Nomos, followed by Wine Collector and Market Street. British Sea was withdrawn.

Gala Brand, a daughter of Violence, was bred by Desmond Ryan and Martin Schwartz in Kentucky. Schwartz celebrated a big win as an owner in Thursday’s opener at the Spa, when Gold Lightning stormed home on debut. She posted the same time in her maiden (1:45.93) as the With Anticipation over the same course and distance.

Gala Brand’s dam, multiple Grade/Group 3 scorer Olorda, should impart plenty of stamina. The German-bred mare captured the 2015 Prix Vanteaux (G3) and finished third in the Prix Saint-Alary (G1) before taking up residence stateside. For Schwartz and Chad Brown, Olorda won the 2016 The Very One (G3) in course-record time at Gulfstream Park as well as the Bewitch (G3). Her first registered foal, James Aloysius, placed third in this summer’s Cliff Hanger S. at Monmouth Park.

Despite her solid parents, Gala Brand brought only $30,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. Jones thinks that she was able to snap her up at that price in part because of her gaudy white markings.

“She looked pretty awkward younger,” Jones said. “The white covered more than it does now. She almost kind of grew into her color as she went. I think it helped us in the long term.

“Her personality actually fits her color. She has a lot of charisma and confidence.”