On Saturday, Leyva completed the final verse of that troubling chapter with a half-length victory in the 2012 renewal of the Princess Rooney at Calder Casino & Race Course.
Leyva had Musical Romance forwardly–placed as usual through the early stages of the Princess Rooney, gliding along comfortably inside of horses tracking from third while Golden Mystery, one of trainer Marty Wolfson’s record-setting six entrants, set opening splits of :21.80 and :45.10.
“This filly loves being inside; she thrives on that kind of stuff,” Leyva said of Musical Romance. “You don’t get a lot of horses that want to be in there like that, and that no matter where you put her, she’s going to run.”
Musical Romance began her winning rally on the turn, challenging and then putting away Golden Mystery in mid-stretch before holding off a dangerous late challenge from Nicole H to hold sway grudgingly at the wire while stopping the timer in 1:10.92.
“Turning for home, I was waiting in the pocket, waiting for room,” Leyva said. “I didn’t want to move too soon. I had watched Nicole H’s races in New York, and I know she hangs a little. And at the end, my horse just dug in. She’s just an awesome horse.”
For trainer Bill Kaplan, Saturday’s win was never about exoneration for last year’s Princess Rooney defeat and was always seen as just another stop along the path towards a successful defense in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita in November.
“It didn’t bother me like it did Juan,” Kaplan said of the 2011 defeat. “I think that’s because he was on the horse, he did everything right, and he just got beat. But after the race, I told Juan to forget about it; she ran a great race that day, and had she seen Sassy Image, she would have dug in and did like she did today when holding that other horse (Nicole H) off.
“So there was no vindication for me today. It was just a great race, and we were able to keep her on the road to the Breeders’ Cup.”
Kaplan indicated that Musical Romance’s path to this year’s Breeders’ Cup could include a start in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga on August 24 or the Grade 2 Presque Isle Masters, a race she won in 2011, at Presque Isle Downs on September 8.
Musical Romance returned $4.20, $2.80, and $2.60 for the win. Nicole H paid $3.60 and $4.00 for second, while Nakano returned $8.00 when running on late for third.
With her win in the Princess Rooney Handicap, Musical Romance is now an 11-time winner in 38 lifetime starts, boasting a millionaire’s bankroll of $1,627,695
While the Grade 2 Smile Sprint looked to be the deepest and most competitive field on the Summit of Speed program, Brittlyn Stable, Inc.’s Gantry proved that hypothesis false when running away from his rivals en route to a five-length victory, thus earning a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” Series.
“We originally bought him to run in last year’s Thanksgiving Day Handicap,” winning trainer Ron Faucheux said. “But it looks like we got a horse for the Breeders' Cup Sprint instead.”
Ridden by leading Louisiana Downs jockey Richard Eramia, Gantry was sharp from the gate and was eager to track pacesetting Artefacto from third as that colt, returning from an eight-month layoff, made all the early running through fractions that went in :21.43 and :44.50.
“I knew the inside horse (Artefacto) was going for the lead, so I wanted to keep my horse very close because this track can sometimes be difficult for horses that ship in to run,” Eramia astutely stated. “It can be tricky, and I didn’t want him to have a lot of work to do late. He broke very good, so I put him in the race early.”
As the sprinters moved through the turn, Gantry began to menace the early leader, drawing alongside that rival at the head of the stretch before clearing him with relative ease and then running away from his vanquished foes to hit the wire a clear winner while covering the trip in 1:10.52.
“I know that my horse finishes really well,” Eramia said. “And when I asked him to run, he just took off.”
Sent from the gate as the 1.90-1 favorite, Gantry returned $5.80, $3.20, and $2.80 for the win. Indiano closed well to finish second, returning $4.00 and $3.20, while third-place finisher Close It Out paid $9.00.
Gantry has now won four of his five starts since being purchased by his new connections in the fall of last year. For his career, the son of Pulpit has prevailed in seven of 13 outings, with lifetime earnings of $568,245.
While Jacks or Better Farm, Inc.’s Fort Loudon was likely labeled the top 3-year-old sprinter in south Florida prior to Saturday’s Grade 3 Carry Back Stakes, the son of Awesome of Course took a firm hold of that title when winning the Carry Back, his third stakes triumph of the meet, defeating nationally renowned Trinniberg by a neck while running six furlongs in 1:10.57.
Ridden magnificently by Fernando Jara, Fort Loudon was always intent on keeping Trinniberg in his sights through the early stages of the Carry Back, never letting that rival open up a lead bigger than one length before wearing him down in the final yards to pull the minor upset.
“We were pretty confident coming into this race, and we thought we had a chance regardless of who was running; we just wanted to run our race,” Jara said. “The only thing (trainer) Stanley (Gold) told me was to make sure that I didn’t let the other horse (Trinniberg) go by himself, and I didn’t. And my horse ran great like I knew he would. I’ve got a great horse.”
Fort Loudon paid $5.80 and $2.10 for the win, while Trinniberg paid $2.10 for second. There was no show wagering available on the race.
With his Carry Back victory, Fort Loudon is now a seven-time winner in 14 starts, with a bankroll of $568,485.
While trainer Bill Kaplan ended his day with a Princess Rooney victory by Musical Romance, it was the 3-year-old filly Another Romance that proved a harbinger of all things good when prevailing earlier on the Summit of Speed card, taking the Grade 3 Azalea Stakes by 1 ¾ lengths to tally her second straight stakes triumph, having won the Leave Me Alone in her last.
“There was more speed in the race this time, but it set up very much like her last race,” winning rider Luca Panici said. “With her, you have to see the right way to move her to get through, but when she gets going, she is a lot of horse.”
Another Romance was far back during the early stages of the Azalea, but was the clear beneficiary of a nasty speed duel up front as several horses fought hard on the front-end through quick splits of :21.03, :44.32, and :57.37. When those horses started to tire, Another Romance pounced, charging up the rail to prevail in 1:12.02.
The win was the third straight for Another Romance, who had managed to find the winner’s circle just once in her first 12 starts. The daughter of Saint Anddan is owned by Lewis Pell, Michael Eigner, Pinnacle Racing Stables, et al.
Other stake-winners on the Summit of Speed program included a 1 ¼-length win by Chester A. Bishop and Chris Gatis’ Tale of a Champion, ridden by Luis Saez, in the $100,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint, and a rousing six-length score by Gary Aiken’s Callmethesqueeze in the $100,000 Hollywood Wildcat for trainer Manuel Azpurua and jockey Jose Alvarez.