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ELMONT, NY – The overseas-based Charlie Appleby barn’s Althiqa and Summer Romance earned back their hefty shipping rates by acing their North American racing debuts in Saturday’s $500,000 Longines Just a Game Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park.
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Althiqa broke from post 8 under Mike Smith at 7/1 odds and lingered near the rear as Summer Romance and jockey Luis Saez took command of the early pace as expected.
With Zofelle and New York Girl struggling to keep up, Summer Romance posted opening fractions of :23.43 and :46.90 before rounding the far turn like a runaway freight train.
Smith’s patient handling of Althiqa paid off in spades when he gave her the green light to dive inside rivals in the stretch.
Wresting command from her stablemate near the 1/16 pole, Althiqa strode across the wire 3/4 of a length the best, stopping the clock at 1:33.90 for the one-turn mile event over the good outer turf course.
“She’s got a big heart and she’s very, very honest, so she’s going to run good,” Smith said. “You’re just going to have to make a trip when it’s time to move on. I was actually going to tip out, but she kind of leaned in like she wanted to drop to the fence, so I just let her. It was a small hole, but (Appleby) told me she had a big heart and she got on through there. She might suit American racing really well. We might want to keep her here.”
Summer Romance was 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Daddy Is a Legend, herself a length clear of Regal Glory.
The 5/2 favorite Pocket Square finished a disappointing fifth, while behind her came Zofelle, Always Shopping, Abscond, Tamahere, and New York Girl to complete the order of finish.
Blowout (the 4/1 morning line favorite) and Sweet Bye and Bye scratched.
Althiqa’s win was her second of the year following January’s Cape Verdi (G2) at Meydan and improved her overall record to 10-5-2-3. The Godolphin homebred daughter of Dark Angel has now bankrolled $466,213.
“We’re obviously delighted with it and we knew we had two competitive fillies. It’s one of those days when we prepped well, I was confident they would run a big race and they justified it,” Appleby said. “They are two fillies who ran well over the winter in Dubai in Group 2s … and they came to America and put it to the sword again. It’s a great effort by the team there and we might think about leaving them there for Saratoga. Althiqa hit the line strong enough and she wasn’t stopping. It was an opportunity to get a Group 1 and luckily we did.”
Althiqa returned $16.80 to win, $8.30 to place, and $5.80 to show. Summer Romance brought back $9.40 to place and $7.10 to show. Daddy Is a Legend paid $6.60 to show.
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