HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Peter Deutsch’s Take Charge Paula lived up to her name, taking command in the far turn before drawing off on the stretch to win Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Breaking alertly from post 4 under Paco Lopez, Take Charge Paula sat close to early leader Heavenhasmynikki through opening fractions of :23.35 and :46.67. Edging up to take command near the 1/4 pole, Take Charge Paula hit the stretch with a 2-length lead and stayed sharply to her task, completing the 7-furlong main track event in a final time of 1:23.47.
“I had a great trip and a great position,” Lopez said. “I know this filly really well. The track is a little fast, so I went outside and waited for the other horses. She’s a nice filly and ran great.”
After setting near the rear early, Sultry raced five-wide at one point before getting up late to finish second, 3 1/2 lengths off the winner. A length behind her, My Miss Lilly took third by another length past a fading Heavenhasmynikki. Morning Destiny, Miss Mo Mentum, Foxtrot Sally, and Violent Times completed the order of finish.
The Forward Gal is part of the Road to the 2018 Kentucky Oaks prep race season. Take Charge Paula earned 10 points for the win, with Sultry receiving 4 for second, My Miss Lilly 2 for third, and Heavenhasmynikki 1 for fourth.
Take Charge Paula’s win was her third straight, all against stakes company, and was her first graded score, improving her record to 7-5-1-0 with career earnings of $308,250. The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained 3-year-old daughter of Take Charge Indy was making her debut for new owner Deutsch, who privately purchased her after finishing 2017 with a win here in the $75,000 House Party Stakes.
“I was a little nervous there for a minute when she was head and head; I didn’t know she was going to draw off,” said McLaughlin, who earlier in the day also won the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct. “She leaned out a little bit and drifted a little bit, but we’ve had some pretty good fillies do that in our past. At least she was still in front. Paco knows her and rode her well.”
Take Charge Paula returned $7.40 to win, $3.80 to place, and $3 to show. Sultry brought back $5.60 to place and $3.60 to show, while My Miss Lilly paid $3.60 to show.