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ELMONT, NY – Team Valor International homebred Oleksandra cashed big one last time against the boys while making her final career start in Sunday’s $250,000 Poker Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park.
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Oleksandra broke slowly from post 2 under Joel Rosario at 17/1 odds and trailed the field down the backstretch as Get Smokin led through opening fractions of :22.52 and :44.60.
Get Smokin still led off the far turn, but Oleksandra caught the field and began circling her rivals as Rosario tipped her out widest of all while cornering.
The 3/5 favorite Raging Bull dove inside Get Smokin as his Chad Brown stablemate Front Run the Fed went outside, but neither horse was prepared for Oleksandra’s freight train-esque charge.
Taking command inside the final furlong, Oleksandra dug deep to keep Raging Bull at bay as they separated from the field with 1/16 of a mile remaining.
The Neil Drysdale trainee, in foal to top stallion Into Mischief, crossed a head clear while completing the firm one-turn outer turf mile in 1:32.11.
“She ran a really tremendous race,” Rosario said. “She was really relaxed. The pace was fast and she was there for me. It was very impressive. We started picking up a little bit after 3 furlongs and she got her momentum with that stride that she has. At one point, I just decided to try going out a little bit. I didn’t want to get stuck.”
The top pair finished 3 lengths clear of Front Run the Fed, who necked out Sanctuary City for third.
Get Smokin, Penalty, Tell Your Daddy, Raased, and Veronesi completed the order of finish.
Oleksandra’s win was her third time defeating male counterparts, with all 3 coincidentally coming at Belmont Park including last June’s Jaipur Stakes (G1). The Australian-bred 7-year-old Animal Kingdom mare retires with a record of 20-8-4-3 with $705,748 earned.
“Since she’s more relaxed this year, we decided to try her at a mile hoping she could get the distance, and she did,” Drysdale said. “She’s pregnant, so this was her swan song. She’ll go out on a high note.”
Oleksandra returned $36.80 to win, $7.30 to place, and $5.40 to show. Raging Bull brought back $2.60 to place and $2.10 to show. Front Run the Fed paid $3 to show.
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