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LEXINGTON, KY – Chris Walsh’s California Angel is bound for California after getting up late to win Wednesday’s $200,000 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes (G2) at Keeneland.
The Jessamine is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event awarding an automatic berth in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup race at Del Mar this November.
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California Angel bumped with the rail-breaking Kneesnhips as she exited post 2 as a 17/1 longshot under Rafael Bejarano, then took back as the field passed under the wire for the first time.
Ontheonesandtwos pressed Turnerloose through opening fractions of :23.59, :47.73, and 1:13.31. Turnerloose, the 4/5 favorite under Florent Geroux, kicked clear at the 1/4 pole but came under heat halfway home.
Bejarano tipped California Angel out three-wide nearing the far turn and kept her in the clear while being forced out wider and wider until she was in the middle of the track at the top of the stretch.
Though she failed to ever change leads, California Angel steadily passed tiring rivals to her inside before catching a stubborn Turnerloose and a narrowly-leading Diamond Wow in the final jumps to win the 1 1/16-mile firm turf route by a head in 1:44.30.
“She had a good turn of foot today,” Bejarano said. “I just wanted to keep her out of trouble. (Down the stretch) I could have gone inside, but when I saw it was kind of tight, I wanted to get her clear and let her run. I know she was going to come running at the end. She did. She proved it today.”
Diamond Wow, drawn wide and kept wide throughout, necked out Turnerloose for second, while another length back, Dressed headed Opalina for fourth.
“We’ll see how she comes out of this race,” Diamond Wow assistant trainer Andie Biancone said regarding a possible trip to the Breeders’ Cup. “Probably if she was an inch taller, she might have won. The 13 post position definitely impacted her performance today, but we are absolutely thrilled. She ran her heart out.”
Rougly a Diamond, Misthaven, Kneesnhips, Bhoma, Queen Judith, Rigby, Boxing Day, and Ontheonesandtwos completed the order of finish.
Decree of Love and Also Eligibles Blissful and Haughty scratched from the field of 2-year-old fillies.
California Angel’s win was the second of her career following a debut score going 1 mile at Kentucky Downs on September 8, followed by a third-place finish in a 6-furlong optional claiming sprint on Churchill Downs’ dirt course. The California Chrome filly, purchased for $5,500 this past June, has now earned $213,700.
She was trainer George Leonard III’s first starter in a graded stakes.
“I thought I had a special filly from the beginning, but I never dreamed of being here and winning this,” Leonard III said. “After she won (her debut), I heard all this talk and we decided to try this. It’s just been a dream come true. Everything’s worked well, got an excellent rider in (Bejarano). He gets along with her good. She made a perfect run. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
California Angel returned $37.60 to win, $14 to place, and $5.60 to show. Diamond Wow brought back $10 to place and $5.40 to show. Turnerloose paid $2.60 to show.
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