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HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – A pair of mares who summer at Woodbine put forth a thrilling stretch duel in Saturday’s The Very One Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park, but it was Stronach Stables’ homebred Holy Helena who managed to poke her head past Ickymasho at the wire to win for the second straight year.
Breaking from post 3 as the 2/1 favorite under Irad Ortiz, Jr., Holy Helena stalked along the rail while Ickymasho (ridden by Irad’s brother Jose) set the pace through opening fractions of :23.89, :49.31, and 1:13.81. Put to task nearing the top of the stretch, Holy Helena tipped out and began chasing after the loose-on-the-lead Ickymasho, who was attempting to spring the 24/1 upset. Holy Helena finally caught her fellow Canuck inside the final furlong, but Ickymasho fought back gamely. The pair ran tightly until the shadow of the wire, when the Jimmy Jerkens trainee pushed past to win by a head in a final time of 1:54.20 for the 1 3/16-mile event over the firm turf course.
“Last time, she broke a step slow and we were too far back, so we tried to break good and get good position,” said Ortiz, Jr. “She was closer today, and when I asked her to go, she was there. We were going slow today, the pace was very slow. We were close to the lead. I tried to hold my position. With the slow pace, I turned her loose a little earlier because it’s hard to catch some horses when they go that slow.”
Semper Sententiae necked out Tricky Escape for third while also finishing 3 1/2 lengths behind the top pair. Danceland took fifth over Lafta, while The Tulip and A. A. Azula’s Arch both failed to threaten and completed the order of finish. Eskimo Kisses, a Main Track Only entrant, was scratched.
Holy Helena’s win was her first since taking the Sheepshead Bay Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park last May and improved her overall record to 16-7-3-2 with $1,175,578 earned. The 5-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper made a nice return to form after struggling last out in the La Prevoyante Stakes (G3) here over a yielding turf course.
“She had only run four weeks ago, a mile and 1/2 on soft turf, but she’s a good doer, especially for a filly,” Jerkens said. “She had three decent works in between her last race and she handled it well. I think she looks terrific physically, so I was very confident today, I really was.”
Holy Helena returned $6.20 to win, $3.80 to place, and $2.80 to show. Ickymasho brought back $16.40 to place and $8.60 to show, while Semper Sententiae paid $3.20 to show.
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