LEXINGTON, KY – Trainer Brad Cox’s Aunt Pearl blazed a new race record-setting trail with a strong gate-to-wire effort in Wednesday’s $150,000 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes (G2) at Keeneland.
The Jessamine is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Aunt Pearl receiving an automatic berth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland this November.
Aunt Pearl broke quickly from post 7 under Florent Geroux as the 3/2 favorite and went straight to the lead, easily taking command as the field passed under the wire for the first time.
While Navratilova gave closest watch, Aunt Pearl clicked off fractions of :22.28, :46.65, and 1:11.32 down the backstretch and through the far turn.
Given the green light at the 1/4 pole, Aunt Pearl straightened for home still on top and easily repelled a mid-stretch bid from the 8/5 second choice Spanish Loveaffair to win by 2 1/2 lengths.
Aunt Pearl completed the 1 1/16-mile firm turf route in 1:40.86, the fastest recorded time in race history. Keeneland’s turf record for the distance is 1:39.02, set this past July by the 2017 Jessamine winner Rushing Fall.
“She showed us a lot of talent in the mornings,” Cox said. “I told someone after the race that that’s the first time we ever cut her loose. She’s very gifted. She’s got a lot of natural speed – :46 and change, carrying speed two turns like that in the second start of her career – she’s obviously very special. It was a big effort.”
Spanish Loveaffair was unable to catch the leader after stalking from third, but she did secure second by 2 3/4 lengths over a rallying Ingrassia.
Arm Candy, Batyah, Navratilova, Taylor’s Tourist, Momentous Miss, Beautiful Star, Gambling Cat, and Lazy Summer Day completed the order of finish in the race restricted to 2-year-old fillies.
Aunt Pearl’s win backed up her impressive maiden-breaking debut score by 5 lengths while going 1 mile on the Churchill Downs lawn on September 1. The Irish-bred daughter of Lope de Vega, purchased for $358,766 as a yearling, has now earned $132,784 for co-owners Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Peter Deutsch, Michael Kisber, and The Elkstone Group.
“We always loved her from the beginning,” said Geroux, who was also aboard for her debut. “We thought she was a very nice filly. I had to make her work a little bit today down the stretch. In her first race, she didn’t get anything out of it. She was pretty much on cruise control the whole time. If we want to be a factor in the Breeders’ Cup, she needed to do a little something today. She was very impressive and I’m very pleased with her.”
Aunt Pearl returned $5 to win, $2.80 to place, and $2.40 to show. Spanish Loveaffair brought back $3 to place and $2.60 to show, while Ingrassia paid $3.20 to show.