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ELMONT, N.Y. – Newton Anner Stud and J Stable’s Off the Tracks proved right on target Saturday afternoon, drawing clear by 3 ½ lengths to score the first Grade 1 of her career in the $300,000 Mother Goose for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park.
With Mom’s On Strike to her outside, Off the Tracks set a sharp early pace with Jose Ortiz aboard as the pair swept through an opening quarter-mile in 22.79 seconds, a half in 45.53 and three-quarters in 1:09.62. As the field entered the stretch, the Curlin filly denied a bid from Lewis Bay, who saved ground after bumping with 9-5 favorite Rachel’s Valentina soon after the break, to complete the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.01. Lightstream launched a late rally to finish third, a length behind Lewis Bay.
“She broke good and was very alert,” said Ortiz. “We went a bit fast but she wasn’t pushed all the way to do that. She was relaxed and did it by herself. She was in a good rhythm. As we passed the three-eighths pole, she gave me a lot of confidence to go on. She responded very well.”
A $50,000 yearling purchase, Off the Tracks posted back-to-back victories as a 2-year-old, including a 3 ¼-length score in the Grade 3 Schuylerville last July at Saratoga Race Course. The bay filly dominated in her sophomore debut, winning the Margate Handicap in February at Gulfstream Park by 4 ¼ lengths before transferring to trainer Todd Pletcher in the spring.
Off the Tracks was third in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks for her new connections in April before returning with a game runner-up effort to finish 1 ¼ lengths behind Carina Mia in the Grade 1 Acorn on June 11.
The Mother Goose winner returned $8.10 for a $2 win wager. Now 4-for-6 in her career, the winner’s share of the purse boosted Off the Tracks’ earnings to $485,594.
“Just trying to figure out how we thought the race would unfold, we weren’t positive what a couple horses would do, but we felt that if she [Off the Tracks] got a clean break there was a decent chance that she would be on the lead so that was plan A with her,” Pletcher said. “Even though the fractions were very fast, the track seems to be playing pretty fast today so I was a little concerned going as fast as they were but she seemed to be doing it comfortably and in good rhythm. I was happy to see her have something left to finish up with.”
Mo d’Amour, Rachel’s Valentina, Mom’s On Strike and Linda Mimi completed the order of finish.
One race prior to the Mother Goose, long shot My Sweet Girl closed with a furious finish to best Neck of the Moon at the wire to upset the $100,000 Perfect Sting for owner Joyce B. Young and trainer Barclay Tagg.
Breaking from post 6 over a yielding turf course with Manuel Franco in the irons, the daughter of Bernardini, who left the gate at odds of 14-1, broke last as Old Harbor led the field of six through fractions of 24.47 seconds for the opening quarter-mile with the half going in 49.32.
At the quarter-pole, My Sweet Girl made her winning move. Traveling four-wide, she surpassed 3-5 post-time favorite Onus and engaged Neck of the Moon in the deep stretch. Battling back and forth, she edge her rival at the wire, earning the victory by a neck to complete the one-mile distance with a final time of 1:35.75.
“She ran great,” said Franco. “I love the way she runs. She’s real responsive. The trainer told me to be patient with her and that’s what I did. She gave me a good move and when I was asking, she was there for me.”
Returning $31.80 for a $2 win wager, My Sweet Girl picked up her first career stakes victory boosting her career earnings to $239,780.
“I was a little concerned [about the break],” said Tagg. “I wanted her covered up a little bit but I didn’t particularly want her way back there. I thought the track’s been too fast for her to come back. I was afraid when I saw her way back there that she might not be able to get up, because the speed’s no going to come back but it all worked out. The kid rode her beautifully and I was very happy with it.”
Following Neck of the Moon in second were Onus, Mississippi Delta, Notte d’Oro, and Old Harbor. Distorted Beauty, Stormy Victoria, Cali Thirty Seven, Tammy the Torpedo, and Miss Ella were scratched from the race.
Todd Pletcher, winning trainer of Off the Tracks (No. 2) and fifth-place finisher and beaten favorite Rachel’s Valentina (No. 6): “[We’re] just trying to figure out how we thought the race would unfold. We weren’t positive what a couple horses would do but we felt that if she [Off the Tracks] got a clean break there was a decent chance that she would be on the lead, so that was plan A with her. Even though the fractions were very fast, the track seems to be playing pretty fast today, so I was a little concerned going as fast as they were, but she seemed to be doing it comfortably and in good rhythm. I was happy to see her have something left to finish.”
“I really don’t have a great explanation [for Rachel’s Valentina]. It looked like she was in a decent spot, but Johnny seemed like he had to start asking her for a lot earlier than you would expect him to. We’ll see how she comes out of it and try to regroup.”
Chad Brown, trainer of second-place finisher Lewis Bay (No. 5): “It’s disappointing. She was sitting there loaded the whole way, I thought when she tipped out she’d go right by that horse and she just ran even down the lane. She got a good trip, and she looked like a winner every step of the way until she just flattened out in the middle of the stretch.
Jose Ortiz, winning jockey aboard Off the Tracks (No. 2): “She broke good and was very alert. We went a bit fast but she wasn’t pushed all the way to do that. She was relaxed and did it by herself.”
“She was in a good rhythm. As we passed the three-eighths pole, she gave me a lot of confidence to go on. She responded very well.”
Irad Ortiz Jr., runner-up jockey aboard Lewis Bay (No. 5): “I got a perfect trip. She’s a nice filly. I’m just really disappointed today.”
John Velazquez, jockey aboard fifth-place finisher and beaten favorite Rachel’s Valentina (No. 6): “We thought the race set up perfect with speed in front of us. It just didn’t happen. The speed was in the lead and kept running, so there aren’t any excuses for the horses from behind.”
“She wasn’t trying for whatever reason. Everything felt well. She didn’t want to do it, I guess. It’s strange.”
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