Monday, August 27, 2012


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Racing with blinkers off, Love and Pride shadowed the early pacesetter for three-quarters of a mile, claimed the lead with five-sixteenths to travel, and held off odds-on Royal Delta late to register a 10-1 upset in the Grade 1, $600,000 Personal Ensign Invitational Handicap on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course.

In her previous start, the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap on July 21, Love and Pride blazed a half-mile in 45.70 seconds before tiring to finish fourth, 9 ½ lengths behind winner Royal Delta. This time, she relaxed off the flank of Brushed by a Star through fractions of 24.16 and 47.69, and had ample in reserve to resist Royal Delta’s belated challenge and prevail by a half-length.

Second choice It’s Tricky (2-1) stumbled badly at the start, offered a bid along the inside in upper stretch, and tired late to finish third, beaten 1 ½ lengths.

“We broke well, and I wanted to give her the best chance the first part of the race as I could without letting her run off with me,” said winning Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. “She broke on top and I saw Corey Nakatani [jockey of Brushed by a Star] wanted to go to the lead, so I got off them a little bit. I had her in a pretty decent spot and the other horse kept pushing me to the outside and she got a little more aggressive. I just waited there until we got to the three-eighths pole, and when I saw [It’s Tricky] get through on the inside, it was time to go and she responded right away.”

The final time for 1 1/8 miles was 1:49.22, with Love and Pride returning $22 for a $2 win wager.

Love and Pride has trained at Delaware Park this summer and won that venue’s Grade 3 Obeah on June 16. It was after the Delaware Handicap that trainer Todd Pletcher and his Delaware-based assistant, Michael Dilger, decided to remove the blinkers that Love and Pride had worn for her past 12 starts.

“We were just trying to get her to turn off a little bit,” said Pletcher.

Pletcher, who trains Love and Pride for Green Hills Farm, expressed satisfaction with how the 4-year-old rated off the pacesetter.

“We had anticipated we were going to be close [to the pace], but she’s actually run some of her better races when she’s just been in a stalking position,” said Pletcher. “The complexion of the race changed at the start when It’s Tricky stumbled, and we weren’t sure if [It’s Tricky] would be on the lead, if we’d be on the lead, or possibly [Brushed by a Star], but we were in a good stalking position and happy she was in a nice, comfortable rhythm.”

Love and Pride, 6-2-4 in 15 starts, was bred in Kentucky by Stud TNT and is out of Ile de France, a Grade 1-placed half-sister to 2006 Champion Three-Year-Old Male Bernardini. Her Personal Ensign win, worth $360,000, lifted her career earnings to $775,760

Royal Delta’s trainer, Bill Mott, said last year’s Champion Three-Year-Old Filly did not run her best race in the Personal Ensign.

“[Jockey] Mike [Smith] maybe should have gone a little earlier,” he added. “I don’t have much to say about it.”

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who won yesterday’s Grade 1 Travers with Alpha in a dead heat, praised It’s Tricky for finishing third despite her troubled start.

“She stumbled very badly and [jockey Eddie Castro] was lucky to stay on,” said McLaughlin of It’s Tricky, who lost for the first time in four 2012 starts. “She got up and ran her heart out. She ran very well. A break like that, it’s very unfortunate. We’re very proud of her. It’s just the highs and lows of the game. Congratulations to the winner.”

Tiz Miz Sue was fourth, followed home by Brushed by a Star and R Gypsy Gold.

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