Leaving from post position 1, Love and Pride quickly secured the lead in the opening strides and was taken in hand by jockey Cornelio Velasquez to set fractions of 24.92, 49.41, and 1:13.54. Bahia Beach moved up to challenge the leader at the quarter pole, but Love and Pride rebuffed that bid and extended her advantage in the stretch.
“I wasn’t concerned when the other fillies came to her on the turn,” said Velasquez. “She had run the half in [49.41] so I still had plenty of horse left when I asked her. She’s a nice filly.”
The Affectionately was the second stakes win for Love and Pride, a Green Hills Farm color-bearer who took the Proud Spell at Saratoga Race Course in August. Following a fifth in the Grade 2 Cotillion in Parx Racing in October, she finished third in three consecutive races: the Real Prize overnight stakes in October at Belmont Park, the Grade 1 Gazelle on the Aqueduct main track in November, and the Let Me Linger overnight stakes on the inner track in December.
“She had run well against Awesome Feather [in the Gazelle]; this was an easier spot for her,” noted Velasquez.
Katy Now, a speedy stablemate to Love and Pride, was scratched out of the Affectionately, and Michael McCarthy, assistant to triumphant trainer Todd Pletcher, said the defection proved beneficial for the winner.
“We had the idea of going to the lead, and obviously with the scratch of Katy Now she was the controlling speed,” said McCarthy. “We were able to get away with solid fractions, 49 and change, a big difference from her previous races. It looks like she could be promising. It kind of depends on what mood she’s in when she comes over here. She’s not difficult, but soft fractions make a big difference for her.”
McCarthy said Love and Pride will remain in New York and likely will make her next start in an inner-track stakes. The next race on the Aqueduct stakes schedule for fillies and mares is the Grade 2, $200,000 Top Flight Handicap on the March 3 undercard for the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham.
The Affectionately was worth $45,000 to Love and Pride, a 4-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy and Ile de France. Her record stands at 4-0-4 from nine starts with $208,760 in earnings.
Bahama Bound was third, followed home by Indian Burn, and Orbiston Parva.