Close Hatches continued her winning streak in the $1 million Ogden Phipps Stakes (gr. I) June 7 at Belmont Park, turning back the closing bid of 9-5 second choice Princess of Sylmar and picking up the pieces as even-money favorite and two-time champion Beholder finished fourth (VIDEO).
Princess of Sylmar wound up a head behind the winner after putting in a solid closing run from the back of the field of six older fillies and mares.
Undefeated in three 2014 starts, Juddmonte's 4-year-old daughter of First Defence came off a victory in the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) and before that won the Azeri Stakes (gr. II), both in dominant wire-to-wire fashion. After tracking in third, six lengths behind Classic Point through a half-mile in :45.02, Close Hatches seized the lead and opened a clear advantage through six fulongs in 1:09.38. She was set down to the drive by jockey Joel Rosario and would not be denied.
"There's been a lot of anticipation; we've been pointing toward this race since early spring and it's just one of those cases where things worked out, where you made a plan and things come to fruition," Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said."When she broke her maiden, she was halfway in the field, so from the very beginning she showed she does not have to be on the lead, although she can be. It's nice when they are that versatile and frankly to me it looked today as if she's just as good having a target as she is when she doesn't."
Two-time champion Beholder, making her first start in New York, was fourth on the outside after three-quarters. Beholder followed Close Hatches in her bid for the lead rolling around the final turn, but could not keep pace behind a 1:34.01 mile and was edged for the show.
"She kept trying hard the whole way; maybe she wasn't comfortable with her surroundings," Hall of Fame horseman Richard Mandella said of the five-time grade I winner. Beholder came off a 5 1/4-length romp in the April 20 Santa Lucia Stakes at Santa Anita Park, her first race of the year.
Antipathy finished a neck back on the inside to complete the trifecta behind Ed Stanco's Princess of Sylmar, the four-time grade I winner trained by Todd Pletcher.
"She ran super, she ran out of ground, we needed just one more jump," Pletcher said of 2013 Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) victress Princess of Sylmar, making her first start this year in graded company off a 3 1/2-length season debut in the April 6 Cat Cay Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack."It was a tough beat. The pace was much faster than I anticipated, and today she simply was not good enough."
Close Hatches completed the 1 1/16-mile test in 1:40.55 on a fast track, returning $7.80, $3.50, and $3 at 5-2 while carrying 123 pounds. Princess of Sylmar paid $3.20 and $2.10 while Antipathy brought $6.10. Belle Gallantey and Classic Point completed the order of finish.
"Perfect trip," Rosario said. "I thought maybe we would be on the lead or second, but when I saw those two horses going quick, I just wanted to get a good position and take my time. They stopped a little early so I took the lead."
Close Hatches, bred in Kentucky by the Juddmonte division Millsec out of the Storm Cat mare Rising Tornado, improved her earnings to $2,382,300 while extending her record to eight wins and two seconds from 11 starts, half of those victories in grade I events.
She earned an automatic berth to the Nov. 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Santa Anita, the same race in which she ran second to Beholder by 4 1/4 lengths last year. The Ogden Phipps is a "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup Challenge event.
"We know the Breeders' Cup is in California again and we'll be back to Beholder's home ground, and obviously that's an advantage for her and that's going to be another challenge for us," Mott said.
Last year, Close Hatches took three in a row from her debut to the Gazelle Stakes (gr. II), then rebounded from seventh in the Kentucky Oaks to run second in the Acorn Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont. She then won the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont and the Cotillion (gr. I) at Parx Racing before closing out her sophomore season with that runner-up Distaff finish.