ELMONT, NY – After coming up short in seven straight starts, including four against graded company, John O’Connor’s Semper Sententiae finally broke through for her second career victory in Friday’s $100,000 River Memories Stakes at Belmont Park.
Breaking from post 4 under John Velazquez as the slight 2/1 favorite, Semper Sententiae soon settled along the rail in second while Scottish Jig posted opening fractions of :24.64, :49.52, 1:14.37, and 1:38.85 for the opening mile. Heading into the far turn, Velazquez tipped Semper Sententiae out and she made a two-wide bid along the pacesetter’s outside.
At the top of the stretch, Semper Sententiae assumed command and was set down for the stretch drive. Though Fools Gold made a run at her near the final furlong marker, she was unable to pose a serious threat. The Mark Hennig-trained Semper Sententiae crossed with a 1 3/4-length advantage in a final time of 2:25.48 for the 1 1/2-mile event over the firm turf course.
“She’s been knocking on the door, that’s for sure,” Velazquez said. “The whole key with her is if you get her to relax; she can be pretty aggressive in the first part. The leader went and I put her right behind and she came off the bridle perfect. Someone got to her around the first turn, but then the horse got back from me, and she relaxed again. Today, she had that kick, and she didn’t fight me so much.”
Fools Gold finished 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Scottish Jig, who weakened to third and just barely necked out Homeland Security for fourth. It was another 1/2-length to Sky Full of Stars, while Matty’s Magnum was distanced in the stretch and was eased as she completed the order of finish.
Another Broad was a main track only entry, while Ferdinanda, Gaining, Lemon Zip, Pamina, Theodora B., and Violet Blue were all listed as trainer scratches.
Semper Sententiae’s win was her first since breaking her maiden at second asking here on September 8, 2018, and improved her overall record to 10-2-2-5. The 4-year-old daughter of The Factor, who after finishing sixth on debut has never finished off the board, increased her career bankroll to $297,988.
“Johnny gave her an excellent ride, just like we talked about,” Hennig said. “We were hoping (Scottish Jig) would open out in front of her and we could just track her around. When she ran at Gulfstream (in the La Prevoyante Stakes [G3]), she got forced to move early that day, and Johnny was aggravated that he had to move when he did. We’ve been looking to get her back to that distance because Johnny said that she really liked it.”
Semper Sententiae returned $6.40 to win, $3 to place, and $2.20 to show. Fools Gold brought back $3.60 to place and $2.70 to show, while Scottish Jig paid $2.70 to show.