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CYPRESS, CA – Gem, Inc. and Tom Kagele’s Proud Emma got the better of familiar rival Message in Sunday’s $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) at Los Alamitos.
Proud Emma broke from the far outside post 6 and kept a clear running position at the rear under new rider Juan Hernandez, who picked up the mount after original jockey Mike Smith’s recent positive Covid-19 test.
The rail-breaking Miss Stormy D led through the clubhouse turn and onto the backstretch but came under pressure from the 6/5 favorite Stellar Sound, who surged to the front with 5 furlongs remaining.
Stellar Sound’s advantage shrank as Message moved two-wide past Miss Stormy heading into the far turn and ranged up to meet the leader’s throat latch. An improving Proud Emma joined the fray at the top of the lane and soon joined Message as Stellar Sound weakened.
The two rivals seemed destined to duplicate their dead heat stakes victory earlier this year, but this time, Proud Emma edged ahead in the final 1/16 of a mile and held a 1/2-length advantage through to the wire.
The Peter Miller trainee completed the 1 1/16-mile fast dirt route in 1:42.40.
“Peter told me to just sit behind the speed and she’d give me a strong run,” Hernandez said. “She relaxed perfectly, then really responded when I asked her to get by that other filly.”
Stellar Sound continued falling off in the stretch, eventually crossing 6 lengths behind in third.
Miss Stormy D, Blue Diva, and Donut Girl completed the order of finish.
Proud Emma’s win was her first at the graded level and improved her overall record to 16-6-2-0. The 4-year-old Include filly has now earned $304,658.
“She ran great,” Kagele said. “We’ve been trying to get a graded stakes with her and she finally did it for us today. She likes to sit off it and it set up very nicely for her. We were confident she would come running. She shows up everytime, but this was awesome.”
Proud Emma returned $11.20 to win, $3.80 to place, and $2.40 to show. Message brought back $4 to place and $2.40 to show, while Stellar Sound paid $2.20 to show.
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