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LOUISVILLE, KY – Lothenbach Stables’ Bell’s the One ran full bore in the stretch to nail Serengeti Empress at the wire in a thrilling finish to Saturday’s $500,000 Derby City Distaff Stakes Presented by Derby City Gaming (G1) at Churchill Downs.
Breaking from post 4 under Corey Lanerie at 4/1 odds, Bell’s the One sat well off the rest of the pack, spotting several lengths to much of the field and running ahead of just Sally’s Curlin.
Bet down to 9/5 favoritism, Serengeti Empress set a cracking early pace, posting opening fractions of :21.95 and :43.77 while Bellafina and Ce Ce applied the most early pressure.
Bellafina dropped anchor midway through the far turn as Ce Ce made her bid for the top spot, but Serengeti Empress straightened for home still on the lead and kept Ce Ce at bay.
Still sixth at the top of the stretch, Bell’s the One tipped out and commenced a sharp rally over the crown of the main track. Sweeping past the other rivals in mid-stretch, Bell’s the One caught a leg-weary Serengeti Empress at the 1/16 pole.
The bettors’ choice re-engaged when Bell’s the One met her eye, but the outside momentum was too much to hold back. The Neil Pessin-trained Bell’s the One hit the wire first by a nose hair, completing the 7-furlong fast dirt sprint in a final time of 1:21.07.
“The race set up just like I thought,” Lanerie said. “I was hoping someone would go with Serengeti Empress. I figured Bellafina would press her and (Ce Ce) would be sitting third in the catbird seat. I thought she might be hard to get by … but my filly has her style. I let her stay back there because I know when I call on her, she has a turn of foot like no tomorrow. When I was 3 or 4 lengths behind them, I was pretty confident that I was going to run by them pretty easy, but it wasn’t so easy. Serengeti Empress fought back. I actually thought she had gotten the bob.”
Serengeti Empress was 3 lengths clear of Sally’s Curlin, who similarly rallied in the stretch and beat Ce Ce for third by a 1/2-length.
Wildwood’s Beauty, Bellafina, and Shesomajestic completed the order of finish.
Crazy Sexy Munny, Lady Kate (second in Friday’s La Troienne Stakes [G1]), and Mia Mischief were scratched.
Bell’s the One’s win was her second in her past 3 starts, having taken the Winning Colors Stakes (G3) while covering 6 furlongs over this course in May. The 4-year-old Majesticperfection filly improved her record to 14-7-2-1 with $790,040 earned.
“I’ve been Grade 1-placed but have never had a Grade 1 winner,” Pessin said. “I’ve had a bunch of Grade 2 and Grade 3 winners; never a Grade 1. I thought I’d gone by (Serengeti Empress), and then I thought she came back. I wasn’t sure if we’d won, second, or dead-heated. It was just too close to call. I knew it was pretty close and I didn’t know who won. I was happy whether we’d won or lost. Maybe now she’ll get a little respect, because she’s never gotten it any time she’s run. She tries hard every time. The only times she’s ever gotten beat, it was my fault. Not hers.”
Bell’s the One returned $10.40 to win, $4.20 to place, and $3.20 to show. Serengeti Empress brought back $3.80 to place and $3 to show, while Sally’s Curlin paid $4.20 to show.
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