LOUISVILLE, KY – Roca Rojo edged a game Believe in Bertie to win the 32nd running of the Grade 2, $300,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile for fillies and mares.
Trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Florent Geroux, Roca Rojo covered the mile on a “good” turf course in 1:37.53. The victory gave Brown back-to-back stakes victories, having won the Grade 1 Humana Distaff with Paulassilverlining.
“She’s been training really well,” Brown said. “We knew she could handle the soft going. She’s equally as good on firm. We were a little concerned about the pace and it played out that way. It was a soft pace with a very good horse setting the fractions, a really solid horse. She had her work cut out for her to run her down.”
Believe in Bertie led the field of seven through fractions of :25.23 and :49.20 with Roca Rojo in closest pursuit. At the top of the stretch, Roca Rojo drew on even terms with Believe in Bertie and pushed slightly ahead, only to have Believe in Bertie close the gap in deep stretch. The two dueled to the line, with Roca Rojo victorious by a head.
“I was right off the leader,” Geroux said. “My filly was closer than she usually is. She likes to sit back and make one run, but there was a lack of pace in the race. I decided to put her closer and make sure I wasn’t going to be trapped behind. Down the stretch, I thought I had it pretty easily, but the other filly tried to come back at her. My filly was the best.”
Linda held third by a neck over Mississippi Delta, with Prize Exhibit, Hillhouse High, and Harmonize following in order.
The victory was worth $182,280 to betting favorite Roca Rojo, who increased her earnings to $491,542 with a record of 8-6-1-0, including two graded stakes victories. Roca Rojo is a 5-year-old daughter of Strategic Prince out of the Orpen mare Lucy Diamonds.
Roca Rojo returned $4.60, $3, and $2.40. Believe in Bertie brought back $4 and $3, while Linda paid $2.80 to show.
ADDITIONAL RACE QUOTES
Trainer Chad Brown, Roca Rojo – “We’ll look at the (Grade 1) Just a Game, that makes a lot of sense, in five weeks at a mile at Belmont.”
Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, Believe in Bertie – “She was comfortable in the going. She ran hard. It was a tough beat. She came back in the final yards and the other filly just got the better of us.”
Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr., Linda – “We had a good trip. Unfortunately, we did draw the one hole, but we were able to work out a trip. Our filly is coming around.”
Trainer Ian Wilkes, Linda – “The slow first 1/4 compromised our filly. She was just kind of sitting there with nowhere to go.”