HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Matalona Thoroughbreds’ homebred Stormy Embrace was left to her own devices up front and the Kathleen O’Connell trainee took full advantage, easily wiring the field in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Princess Rooney Handicap 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 Churchill Downs on Saturday, November 3.
Breaking sharply from post 7 under Wilmer Garcia at odds of 15-1, Stormy Embrace fought along the outside to gain prominent position early in an opening 1/4-mile of :22.79 before edging away entering the far turn to post a 1/2-mile in :45.25. Turning for home with a 4-length lead, Garcia kept his filly to task and opened up with plenty left in the tank. Stormy Embrace drove off to win the 7-furlong main track sprint by 6 lengths in a final time of 1:21.81.
“We broke really well and just tried to keep our pace all the way around,” said Garcia, who like his filly had just won his first-ever graded stakes event. “I thought a couple horses had more speed than me, but we ended up in the lead. I tried to hold him down as best as I could and let him be free in the stretch.”
Fellow longshot Rich Mommy closed strongly to edge the race’s 8-5 co-favorites, My Miss Tapit and the defending champion Curlin’s Approval, for second. Ms Locust Point crossed in fifth ahead of Spanish Harlem, while She Takes Heart and Treble completed the order of finish.
Stormy Embrace’s victory was her third straight and improved her record to 19-7-5-2. The 4-year-old Florida-bred daughter of Circular Quay increased her lifetime bankroll to $452,370.
“That was great,” said O’Connell. “She loves the Gulfstream track, and the best thing about her is she’s kind of versatile. She can run off the pace or she can run in front. I told Wilmer – he’s rode the filly so much – to just use his judgment. Right now, I think he can fly back to New Jersey without the plane.”
Stormy Embrace returned $33.40 to win, $12.40 to show, and $4.80 to place. Rich Mommy brought back $11.80 to place and $4.40 to show, while My Miss Tapit paid $2.60 to show.