HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Matalona Thoroughbreds’ homebred Stormy Embrace successfully defended her title belt, proving twice as tough in Saturday’s $250,000 Princess Rooney Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
The Princess Rooney is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Stormy Embrace receiving an automatic berth in the Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, November 2.
Breaking from post 6 under Wilmer Garcia as the 1/5 definitive favorite, Stormy Embrace showed enough early speed to run three-wide within a length of the lead, where Razorback Lady and Saguaro Row dueled through an opening 1/4-mile in :22.65. Still running three abreast as the field made the far turn, Stormy Embrace cruised up effortlessly to assume command.
At the top of the stretch, Stormy Embrace was in front, but Trenchtown Cat loomed dangerously close behind. The two quickly separated themselves from the rest of the field, and for a moment, Trenchtown Cat looked poised to spring the upset. Stormy Embrace, however, had a different plan. The bettors’ choice repelled her foe’s bid in mid stretch and inched away under steady urging for the victory.
The Kathleen O’Connell trainee hit the wire with a 2-length advantage in a final time of 1:22.99 for the 7-furlong sprint over the good main track.
“God bless her, the best thing about her is she’ll do whatever you want,” O’Connell said. “She’s got speed, but if you ask her, she’s going to go overboard. Wilmer’s got a great set of hands and he really fits her well.”
Trenchtown Cat was 5 1/4 lengths clear of Royal Asscher for second, with another 3 1/4 lengths to a fading Razorback Lady in fourth. Weekend Mischief and a spent Saguaro Row completed the order of finish.
Reagan’s Rose was listed as a trainer scratch.
Stormy Embrace’s win was her second straight, having taken the Musical Romance Stakes here on May 18, and improved her career record to 25-9-6-4 with $710,030 earned. The Florida-bred 5-year-old daughter of Circular Quay finished a disappointing 11th in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, but her connections are hungry for a second chance at glory.
“This business… sometimes you catch a buzz saw and sometimes you are the buzz saw,” said Matt Vuskovich of Matalona Thoroughbreds. “Thank God, with Kathleen and Wilmer, we were the buzz saw today. Plus, we wanted to go back (to the Breeders’ Cup) because we have unattended business. She didn’t have a really good trip. We feel if we can get a good trip in the Breeders’ Cup, we can have a legitimate chance.”
Stormy Embrace returned $2.60 to win, $2.10 to place, and $2.10 to show. Trenchtown Cat brought back $4 to place and $3.40 to show, while Royal Asscher paid $3.60 to show.