Owned by Flying Zee Stables, Agave Kiss opened her career with six consecutive dominant victories, including a win in the Grade 3 Cicada on Aqueduct’s inner track in March.
“Your guess is as good as mine [as to why she ran poorly in the Victory Ride],” said Agave Kiss’s trainer, Rudy Rodriguez. “I’m still looking for it. I’m going to [draw a line through the race]. Hopefully, she’ll do it, too. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’ll pretend it was a bad dream. It was kind of disappointing, but thankfully she came back good, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed. Hopefully, she’ll show up when we run her.”
Ramon Dominguez will ride Agave Kiss, the 8-5 morning-line favorite, from post position 6.
The 39-1 winner of the Victory Ride was Emma’s Encore, who rallied from fifth to prevail by 2 ¾ lengths and further cement trainer Allen Jerkens’ reputation for upsets. It marked the third career victory and first in a graded stakes for Emma’s Encore, who entered the Victory Ride off a second in an optional claimer on May 16 at Belmont.
“[Emma’s Encore will] have to do even better if she’s going to get this one,” said her Hall of Fame trainer. “If she runs in this one, we won’t run in the Test [Grade 1, August 25]. You never know how the track is going to play, if it’s going to be playing speed. That’s why they don’t win them all, but you got to take a chance. If she could do it, it’d be some feather in her cap, a Grade 1.”
Emma’s Encore, who carries the colors of Brenda Mercer, drew the rail post and was installed at 4-1 on the morning line. Jockey Junior Alvarado has the call.
After challenging Agave Kiss and putting away that rival before the five-sixteenths pole, Jamaican Smoke yielded to Emma’s Encore in the final sixteenth of a mile to finish second in the Victory Ride. It was the fourth start of Jamaican Smoke’s career, which also includes a third in a Gulfstream Park maiden special weight race in March, a maiden win at Keeneland in April, and a facile allowance score in May at Churchill Downs.
“She ran well [in the Victory Ride]; we were very pleased,” said trainer Eddie Kenneally. “She got caught up in a speed duel but didn’t quit in the lane. She was very gallant and kept running to the wire. She’s an inexperienced filly, but that race should help her from an experience standpoint.”
Jockey Jose Lezcano has the assignment aboard Jamaican Smoke, 3-1, from post 3.
The Victory Ride was the first start on dirt for third-place finisher Tu Endie Wei, a four-time stakes winner over Woodbine’s Polytrack. In her three starts preceding the Victory Ride, she won Woodbine’s six-furlong Star Shoot Stakes by 5 ½ lengths in April, was second when stretched out to 1 1/16 miles in that venue’s Grade 3 Selene in May, and faded to sixth in the Alywow sprinting on the E.P. Taylor turf in June.
In the Victory Ride, Tu Endie Wei stumbled slightly at the start, ranged up to be third at the first call, inherited second when Agave Kiss capitulated, and was unable to pass Jamaican Smoke or hold off Emma’s Encore.
“I think that she’ll end up running her best races on dirt, not Polytrack,” said Reade Baker, who trains the Brereton Jones homebred. “Given that she had some mucus that day and got shuffled at the start [in the Victory Ride], that might have been the best race of her life.”
Tu Endie Wei, 6-1, will depart from post 4 with Julien Leparoux aboard.
The Prioress field also includes Livi Makenzie, fourth in the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks, Judy the Beauty, second in an optional claimer sprinting on turf at Churchill Downs, and Jazzy Idea, runner-up in the Lady Charles Town Stakes.