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ARCADIA, CA — Hillhouse High overtook pacesetter Juno inside the sixteenth pole and held off her late-charging stablemate Mokat to win Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Royal Heroine Stakes by 1/2 a length.
Off at 7-1 in a field of seven older fillies and mares, fractions on the race were 22.56, 45.67, 1:10.09, and 1:21.72, with a winning time of 1:33.61.
A 6-year-old Kentucky-bred mare by Exchange Rate, Hillhouse High, who is owned by Golden Eagle Farm Investment, LP, improved her overall mark to 23-4-6-6. With the winner’s share of $120,000, the Richard Baltas trainee increased her earnings to $441,113.
Last throughout, the long-striding Mokat shifted to the middle of the track 1 furlong out and just missed as she was surging late under Rafael Bejarano. Only a neck back, the Brazilian-bred Juno, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, was sent from her rail post and ended up third, 3/4 of a length in front of the favored Harmonize, who had no apparent excuses. Pretty Girl, Prize Exhibit, and Lady Valeur completed the order of finish.
Hillhouse High returned $16.80, $8.40 and $6.20. Mokat brought back $10.20 and $7.40, while Juno paid $7.60 to show.
Jockey Corey Nakatani, Hillhouse High: “We had a great trip. She broke really well, was tactically placed, and the inside horse asserted herself with Kent (Desormeaux). I was able to track them and give her a target, which was really good for her. She did the rest. She’s a really good filly.”
Jockey Rafael Bejarano, Mokat: “We had ourselves in a good position, but the winner was much the best. The winner had a better post and we just came up short. We made a good run. Little by little, I’m feeling better, and I’ve been getting more opportunities. I lost those couple of months (with an injury), but things are good now.”
Trainer Richard Baltas, Hillhouse High: “Her last two works were very good and Corey actually worked her both times. She finished her last quarter in 22 and change the other day.
“The main thing was that I thought she’d get the trip today. She sat right behind the speed and it just worked out that way. I was really happy with Mokat’s race, as well (Baltas’ other runner, who ran second.) It’s unfortunate that she didn’t win, but what can you do – they were running against each other.
“Hillhouse High had the perfect trip today, right behind the speed. I was watching both horses just hoping we’d get a piece and we ended up running one-two. I’m just grateful for that.
“Corey has been helping me a lot in the mornings. He was helping me before he even started his comeback and he must have breezed 25 horses for me. His weight is down, his son is his agent, and they’re a great team. Corey is so great on the grass. He’s a great rider, period, but really, really good on the grass.”
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