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ELMONT, NY – A late charge by the Mike Rutherford and Terry Green-owned mare Mississippi Delta was strong enough to help her prevail by a head to win the Grade 3, $250,000 Intercontinental.
The 5-year-old daughter by Giant’s Causeway withstood a challenge to her outside from Conquest Babayaga in the final strides but had enough to outlast her foe. The finish line couldn’t come fast enough for winning trainer Mark Casse.
“That was interesting, because the filly that was flying on in (Conquest Babayaga) was my old filly that we sold in the Conquest dispersal.” he said from the winners’ circle. “I felt like I was afraid the Preakness was going happen. Chad got us in the Preakness; we got him this time. When she’s on her game, she’s on the bridle. I said to (son and assistant) Norman about the 1/4 pole, ‘He’s got horse. She’s going to run good.’ She looked good today.”
Jockey Jose Lezcano rated Mississippi Delta down the backside to sixth amid the field of 10, while front-running Portmagee set fractions of :22.80, :45.38, and 1:08.72. Mississippi Delta was urged from the two path at the 1/2-mile and put under a four-wide drive turning for home. Conquest Babayaga, settled early by Joel Rosario, was taken seven-wide before urged to catch the leaders in the stretch. Down the center of the course, the Uncle Mo filly ran out of ground and was forced to settle for the runner-up spot.
Mississippi Delta’s winning effort against this field, covering the seven furlongs on the firm Widener turf in 1:20.05, was far different from her last, a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs.
“I got a very good trip,” Lezcano said. “She broke good, and we were exactly where I wanted to be. Last time, she got very soft turf. I know she’s a nice filly and she’s better than what she showed last time. Today, the grass was perfect for her, and she ran her race.”
Mississippi Delta’s win was her seventh from 19 career starts, and was sent off at odds of 6-1.
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In addition to Conquest Babayaga, trainer Chad Brown saddled Take These Chains, an Irish-bred bringing three straight victories from as many starts. Jockey Javier Castellano, who teamed with Brown to win this race last year with Zindaya, kept her in mid-pack before setting her loose, but the 4-year-old filly by Fastnet Rock weakened through the stretch as the 3-5 favorite.
“I didn’t have much excuse today,” Castellano said. “I was in a good spot but, unfortunately, she didn’t fire today. I don’t know for what reason, but she didn’t show up today.”
Portmagee preserved a third-place finish over Fair Point, while Lady Valeur, Outsider Art, Rapid Rhythm, Take These Chains, Josdesanimaux, and Perfect Pic rounded out the field.
Mississippi Delta returned $15.20, $6, and $4.70. Conquest Babayaga brought back $9.10 and $5.60, while Portmagee paid $4.70 to show.
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