LEXINGTON, KY – Robert and Lawana Low’s Sweet Melania set measured fractions up front before drawing off strongly in the stretch to wire Wednesday’s $200,000 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes (G2) at Keeneland.
The Jessamine is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Sweet Melania receiving an automatic berth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita Park this November.
Breaking from post 6 under Jose Ortiz as the 3/1 second choice, Sweet Melania was forwardly-placed as the field passed the wire for the first time. She sat just a neck off of the early leader Jezebel’s Kitten heading into the clubhouse turn through an opening 1/4-mile in :23.29. As they straightened out on the backstretch, Sweet Melania inched up to take command, eventually clearing her inside foe and crossing over before posting fractions of :48.01 for the 1/2-mile and 1:13.22 for 3/4.
Heading into the far turn, Sweet Melania continued to run comfortably along the rail, leading Jezebel’s Kitten and Fujairah by just over 1 length. Midway through the turn, Ortiz glanced behind him, then loosened his hold at the top of the stretch and allowed Sweet Melania to begin lengthening her stride.
Ortiz waited until the 1/8 pole to give Sweet Melania her cue, and at that point, the race was won. Continuing to stride away in the stretch, Sweet Melania crossed 5 1/2 lengths clear in a final time of 1:43.13 for the 1 1/16-mile event over the firm turf course.
“The way she broke today, I knew she was going to be there,” Ortiz said. “In the first turn, I had (Jezebel’s Kitten) trail me, and (Sweet Melania) was a little keen. As soon as I completely got the lead, she relaxed well and I cruised to the 1/4 pole. When I asked her to go, she switched leads and gave me a great turn of foot.”
Witez and Ask Bailey came from third- and second-to-last to take second and third, respectively. The 2/1 favorite Jezebel’s Kitten was unable to improve from her ground-saving trip near the front and weakened in the stretch, just necking out Eye of a Soldier for fourth.
Morning Gold, Diamond Sparkles, Swanage, Indochine, High On Gin, Fujairah, Takeitback, Envied, and Lemon Scat completed the order of finish. There two scratches were Soothsaying (trainer) and Hollee Peach (who didn’t draw in from the also-eligible list).
Sweet Melania’s win was her second in five career starts, having broken her maiden at third asking before finishing second in the P. G. Johnson Stakes at Saratoga. The 2-year-old daughter of American Pharoah, purchased by bloodstock agent Jacob West for $600,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, now sports a record of 5-2-1-2 with $204,000 earned.
“Win any kind of stakes race, a ‘Win and You’re In’ race (at Keeneland) is fantastic, so we’re looking forward to going to California,” Robert Low said. “The sport, the animals, the people – it’s fantastic. I’m a businessperson, so I’m out there competing day to day, so I love the competition. Jacob West found her for us and Todd approved her, so we bought her. We love this filly and are really excited to see her. The way she moves, she has that American Pharoah walk. She was great.”
Sweet Melania returned $8 to win, $5.20 to place, and $3.80 to show. Witez brought back $29.40 to place and $14.80 to show, while Ask Bailey paid $8.20 to show.