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The Racing Dudes react to War Like Goddess winning the 2022 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes (G1) at Belmont at the Big A. The Bill Mott-trained mare looks like America’s best chance to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf; can she get the job done? Watch the replay for the Racing Dudes’ INSTANT reactions, then tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
George Krikorian’s War Like Goddess took on a new task of facing males and handled it with flying colors, defeating a field that included three other Grade 1 winners by 2 3/4 lengths in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont at the Big A.
The 46th running of the 12-furlong test over the inner turf marked its first running at Aqueduct Racetrack since Daniel Wildenstein’s All Along notched her third Grade 1 win in the span of one calendar month en route to Horse of the Year honors and, subsequently, Hall of Fame induction. Females have defeated the boys in 5-of-7 editions of the prestigious event when run at the Big A, including Anifa  and April Run [1981-82].
War Like Goddess broke well from post 2 under Jose Lezcano and tracked in third as Bye Bye Melvin registered the opening quarter-mile in 24.25 seconds over the good going with 67-1 longshot Astronaut another three lengths back in second. Bye Bye Melvin maintained his lead passing the stands for the first time through a half-mile in 48.96 as War Like Goddess continued to bide her time.
Down the backstretch, War Like Goddess inched her way closer to the front and just to the outside of Astronaut while the pacesetter completed three-quarters in 1:13.68 and the mile in 1:39.10. She received her cue from Lezcano around the far turn and matched strides with Bye Bye Melvin approaching the chute. War Like Goddess responded to a couple of reminders from Lezcano and surged clear to capture her second Grade 1 victory in a final time of 2:27.29.
Bye Bye Melvin held second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Astronaut, followed by a dead heat for fourth between last year’s winner Rockemperor and Solider Rising. Adhamo and Gufo completed the order of finish.
Lezcano, who piloted the Bill Mott-trained War Like Goddess for the first time, said his trip went as smooth as it possibly could.
“He told me the horse can lug in or out, but he never told me, ‘I want you here or over there’,” said Lezcano. “The filly is very easy to ride. She broke very good, and I moved her up a little more than I wanted to, but she seemed a little quiet, so I moved her up a little more. I wanted position at the start of the race and the one [Bye Bye Melvin] and the four [Astronaut] went, so I sat right there. I stepped aside and stayed there the whole way around. It was very easy to get there, there were only seven horses.”
War Like Goddess, who returned $3.90, arrived at the Joe Hirsch following a late-closing second as the heavy favorite in the Grade 2 Flower Bowl on September 3 at Saratoga Race Course, a race she won last year when it boasted Grade 1 status. The 5-year-old English Channel mare added a seventh career graded stakes win to her stellar resume, which also includes back-to-back victories of the Grade 3 Bewitch at Keeneland and the Grade 2 Glens Falls at Saratoga.
The victory also provided Hall of Fame trainer with his fifth Joe Hirsch score, after saddling eventual turf champions Theatrical  and Channel Maker [2018, 2020], as well as Shakespeare  to their respective wins.
Mott said he was hopeful Lezcano would have War Like Goddess in the clear to launch her bid.
“I was hoping when he went down the backside and only had one turn left [she would be outside]. He tipped her out and from there, there shouldn’t be any excuse of getting in trouble,” the Hall of Fame conditioner said. “It looked like at the eighth pole she got to him [Bye Bye Melvin] and she wasn’t doing it on her own. He did tap her and then she went on. It looked like he tapped her and then the second time he tapped her, she really went.”
With War Like Goddess proving more than capable of competing with males, Mott said an engagement in the Grade 1, $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf on November 5 at Keeneland is a realistic goal.
“I always thought she belonged,” Mott said. “There’s good horses and she could get outrun, but I think she deserves an opportunity, for sure. I don’t think we’re out of line whatsoever. We’re a long way from the winner’s circle, but I think she deserves her opportunity. She’s done nothing wrong.”
Jockey Feargal Lynch, aboard Bye Bye Melvin, said going to the lead was the game plan.
“He was the only speed in the race, so we just let him go to the lead. He sat and relaxed nice,” Lynch said. “He was picking it up and doing everything right. We just got run down by a nice horse. We’ve very proud of him. He kept galloping all the way. He’s a good horse and he belongs here. I’m just happy he showed how good he is.”
Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, War Like Goddess is out of the North Light mare Misty North and was purchased for $30,000 at the 2019 OBS June Sale from Hemingway Racing & Training Stables. She enhanced her lifetime earnings up to $1,612,184 through a 12-9-1-1 record.
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