Gary Barber's Sisterly Love became the first two-time winner of the current Keeneland spring meeting and did so at the expense of Juddmonte's multiple grade I winner Emollient when she took home the $100,000 Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare Stakes (gr. III) April 18 (VIDEO).
Notching the second grade III victory of her career, the 2013 Sovereign Award winner as Canada's champion older mare defeated Moment in Dixie by a neck with 7-10 favorite Emollient another neck behind in third in the 1 1/16-mile test of older fillies and mares on Polytrack. The final time was 1:43.82.
Sisterly Love, off at odds of 8-1, disputed the pace with Emollient, but found something left turning for home after early fractions of :23.91 for the quarter and :47.35 for the half. The 6-year-old daughter of Bellamy Road was fully extended under stout handling from Stewart Elliott through three-quarters in 1:11.98 and a mile in 1:37.30 to hold off the late-closing 25-1 chance Moment in Dixie, ridden by Jose Lezcano. The two longshots combined for a $396.20 exacta.
"I had a great trip," Elliott remarked after his first stakes win at Keeneland. "She was comfortable the whole way. On the far turn, I looked over and saw Mike and it looked like he was asking her already. I said, 'Man, I got a chance. I still have some horse left.' And I did. She finished up."
Emollient, coming off a fourth in her season debut in the March 16 Santa Ana Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park, settled for third under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
"He got her up there nicely, probably had to use her a lot early," Juddmonte's Garrett O'Rourke said of Emollient's second start of the season. "It looked like she just got tired at the finish, so maybe he just had to use her a little bit more than he would have liked, and she got beaten by a better filly on the day. But there were no hard-luck stories, so congratulate the winners and we'll try again."
Sisterly Love faced Emollient last October at Keeneland, finishing fourth for trainer Mark Casse after setting the pace in the 1 1/8-mile Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (gr. I) over the Polytrack. Cutting back to the 1 1/16-mile distance in this event obviously suited her.
"I'm not saying she couldn't get a mile and an eighth, but a mile, mile and a sixteenth's probably her most effective distance for her to run well," said Casse's assistant, son Norm. "If she gets comfortable and gets to set a moderate pace, she's very hard to run down."
Norm Casse was pleased with game efforts at this meet from the mare, who took an April 4 allowance wire-to-wire, her first win since a front-running score in the July 20 Ontario Matron Stakes (Can-III) at Woodbine.
"That's not an easy thing to do, especially to run two big races like that back to back," he said. "That filly (Emollient) came to her throatlatch and we turned her away. All we had to do was hold off the other one. So long as she's comfortable, she runs a big race. She's actually a really talented filly."
Bred in Kentucky by Kinsman Farm out of the Dixieland Band mare Odylic, Sisterly Love improved her record to 7-1-1 from 14 starts, good for earnings of $427,004.
No future target has been determined for Sisterly Love, or for Emollient. According to O'Rourke, the latter's long-term goal is a return to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) after a fourth-place effort in the 2013 edition.
"Obviously there's no more Polytrack here and up until today that was what she loved," O'Rourke said. "Probably the best race she ran last year was in the Filly & Mare Turf, so we'll probably aim for those races."
"(I'm) disappointed," Mike Smith said of his mount. "The reason being is she's on the surface supposedly that we think she likes a lot. We got away from the gate really well and she was well within herself around the first turn and down the backside. You know, last year she would have just blown the race open and I was looking for her to do that going into the turn. She just didn't fire her 'A' race at all."
Sisterly Love returned $18, $5.60, and $4.40. Moment in Dixie paid $22.20 and $8.40. Emollient returned $2.40 as Strathnaver, Solid Appeal, Ire, Noble Charlotte, Gold Medal Dancer, Sisterhood, and Pearl Turn completed the order of finish. Dixie Strike scratched.