ELMONT, NY – Unchained Melody handled the step up in competition with aplomb, going gate-to-wire in an impressive stakes debut to win the 61st running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Mother Goose for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Owned by Hidden Brook Farm and Hare Forest Farm, Unchained Melody broke sharp from post 2 and dueled Spanish Harlem and Vexatious for the race’s early speed, going a 1/4-mile in :23.62 and the 1/2 in :46.62.
Jockey Joel Rosario maintained position out of the turn and drifted out heading home, fending off Lockdown‘s late bid before outkicking the favorite for a 3-length score, hitting the wire in 1:42.45.
“She broke on top and I thought there was going to be somebody on the outside of me so we could track for a bit, but she was so comfortable,” Rosario said. “I just let her sit where she was and she was going easy. She was enjoying the middle of the track, so I just kept her there where she felt most comfortable. I worked her in the morning the other day, so I was able to get a feel for her, and she moved very good.”
Unchained Melody won for the third time in four career starts for trainer Brian Lynch, including her second straight victory at the Mother Goose distance. The Smart Strike filly was sent off as the co-favorite at 2-1.
Unraced as a 2-year-old, Unchained Melody’s only failure to visit the winner’s circle came in a runner-up effort in her second race on April 21 at Keeneland against allowance company. With her stakes win, the winners’ share of $150,000 more than doubled her previous career earnings, upping the total to $233,400.
“She’s got such a high cruising speed and there didn’t look like there was going to be a lot of pace in the race, so we hoped she’d get comfortable on the lead,” Lynch said. “Not that those were slow fractions, she cracked out a 1/2 in :46, but she’s tough to get by, obviously.”
Lynch said that Unchained Melody will now target the Grade 1, $600,00 Alabama on August 19 at Saratoga Race Course.
“The Alabama would be the next step,” he added. “We’ll give her some time and set her for that. I think she’s certainly stamped her card in that direction today.”
Lockdown, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, was the runner-up in her first start after finishing third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. Moana, My Miss Tapit, Vexatious, Lights of Medina, and Spanish Harlem completed the order of finish.
Unchained Melody returned $6.40, $3.50, and $2.90. Lockdown brought back $3.20 and $2.70, while Moana paid $4 to show.
On Leave Takes $100,000 Perfect Sting
Two races earlier, On Leave used a ground-saving trip to power her way to victory in the fourth running of the $100,000 Perfect Sting.
On Leave, under jockey Jose Ortiz, stalked the pacesetters on the firm Widener turf course as Ultimate Holiday took the field of eight through slow fractions of :24.13 and :48.23.
Turning into the stretch, the Shug McGaughey-trained 4-year-old filly moved through on the rail, holding off an outside bid from jockey John Velazquez aboard Off Limits to win by a neck, hitting the wire in 1:34.06.
“She trained good coming into this race,” McGaughey said. “The other day, I told Lina (Louriel, exercise rider) to let her ease away from the pole and let her go the last 3/8 of a mile, kind of a blowout on the grass, because I wanted to get a little more out of her with her second race coming off a layoff.
“It’s been a slow spring, so hopefully, this starts something good,” he added. “I’ll nominate her for the (Grade 1, $500,000) Diana (on July 22 at Saratoga), but also the (Grade 2, $400,000) Ballston Spa (on August 26, also at Saratoga). We’ll see. She’s ran good at Saratoga. She won a stakes up there, so we have our options and (we’ll) go from there.”
Chad Brown’s three entries filled out the rest of the spots on the board, with Ancient Secret nosing out stablemate Conquest Babayaga for third. Ultimate Holiday, My Sweet Girl, Outsider Art, and Ancient Goddess completed the order of finish. Rattataptap was scratched.
On Leave returned $5.50, $3.40, and $2.60. Off Limits brought back $4.20 and $3.30, while Ancient Secret paid $3.80 to show.