LAUREL, MD – An epic battle between Arrifana and Horologist lasted the length of the stretch and resulted in a thrilling finish that saw Arrifana the first to get her nose down on the wire in Saturday’s $100,000 Nellie Morse Stakes at Laurel Park.

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Breaking from post 2 under Julian Pimentel as the 3/5 favorite, Arrifana went into stride on her own terms and languished at the rear during the early running. Up front, Bye Bye Bertie set the pace, posting fractions of :23.90 and :47.31 heading into the far turn.

After ranging up to ride between foes heading into the clubhouse turn, Arrifana was forced to wait for running room to appear. At this point, Horologist was racing along Bye Bye Bertie’s outside and Needs Supervision was stuck on Arrifana’s right hip, effectively blocking the favorite’s path.

After being gently eased out into the four path at the top of the stretch, Arrifana was set down for the drive home once clear. Horologist held a narrow lead after dispatching of Bye Bye Bertie, but Arrifana soon met her eye inside the 1/8 pole.

What may have seemed like a runaway winner was soon kept at bay when Horologist fought back gamely along the inside, with neither foe giving an inch. Battling step for step until the shadow of the wire, Arrifana finally surged ahead just enough to cross the victor by a nose.

Trained by Kelly Rubley, Arrifana completed the mile-long event over the fast main track in a final time of 1:35.95.

“The other horse didn’t want to give up,” Pimentel said. “(Arrifana) is very nice and she was going very easy. I had a great trip, and when I asked her, she really took off.”

The top pair were 9 1/2 lengths clear of Needs Supervision, herself 4 1/2 lengths better than Lady Banba in fourth. Victim of Love, Bye Bye Bertie, and Jennemily completed the order of finish.

Arrifana’s win was her fifth in six career starts, with her lone loss coming last out when she finished second in the Comely Stakes (G3). The well-bred 4-year-old daughter of Curlin is out of the A.P. Indy mare Vaulcluse and won her connections a free future mating season with the Maryland-based stallion Dortmund. She has now earned $230,400 for co-owners Gainesway Stable, LNJ Foxwoods, and Millennium Farms.

“She’s obviously run very well here and we thought this was a great opportunity for her to break back into the new year,” Rubley said. “Horologist was a fighter, though. She was making me sweat a little. It’s her first start back after a little break, so you’re always a little concerned if you’re ready, and she certainly showed up for us today.”

Arrifana returned $3.20 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.20 to show. Horologist brought back $3.40 to place and $2.80 to show, while Needs Supervision paid $3 to show.