Aptly named Unbelievable Dream gave jockey Joel Rosario a remarkable fifth win at Keeneland April 18 when she charged from off the pace to capture the $100,000 Appalachian Stakes Presented by Japan Racing Association (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO).
Making her stakes debut for trainer Barclay Tagg in the one-mile event for 3-year-old fillies on the turf, Unbelievable Dream tallied by half a length over Overheard in a time of 1:37.91 on firm ground. The clocking was well off the stakes mark of 1:34.80 set by Halo River in 1998.
Facing several promising fillies in the Appalachian, Sure Thing Stable's winning New York homebred registered her third win from four starts as the 9-2 second choice in the field of eight.
Eden Prairie finished third with 7-10 favorite Watsdachances fourth.
With his big day, Rosario stretched his meet-leading victory total to 20 in his first Keeneland season. He is now 10 clear of second-place Juilien Leparoux.
A chestnut filly by Kitalpha out of the unraced Stephen Got Even mare A Perfect Weekend, Unbelievable Dream was coming off neck victory in a one-mile turf allowance at Gulfstream Park March 3.
Unbelievable Dream lagged seven or eight lengths behind the field for the first half mile before advancing along the inside at the three-eighths pole. To My Valentine and Eden Prairie had the front end to themselves, with To My Valentine leading the opening quarter mile in a moderate :23.33 and Eden Prairie taking over while completing four furlongs in :47.39.
"I told (Rosario) she likes to come from out of it," Tagg said of the winner. "And I said, 'You gotta wait until they turn for home. You can't move early on her.' That's all I told him. I said six lengths would be fine, but he was a little further back than that."
Eden Prairie, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., led her pace rival by a head as they reached the quarter pole in 1:13.42, and she responded gamely along the inside when To My Valentine snatched the advantage once more in upper stretch. Eden Prairie took a narrow edge to deep stretch when overtaken by Overheard and Rosie Napravnik.
But Unbelievable Dream, angled to the outside for the drive by Rosario, closed dynamically from sixth at mid-stretch to reach the wire in time.
"I was really worried," Rosario said of how far Unbelievable Dream had fallen behind the other. "I said, 'Oh my God. Maybe I'm never going to get there.' But Barclay told me that's the way she likes to run. She put in a really good run. That was very impressive. It was awesome."
Overheard won the battle for second by a head over Eden Prairie. Watsdachances, who stalked the pace for Javier Castellano, was in contention but was fanned wide on the final turn and made little progress in the lane. She finished 1 3/4 lengths behind Eden Prairie as the 123-pound highlight.
Watsdachances, an Irish-bred trained by Chad Brown, won the Miss Grillo Stakes (gr. IIIT) last fall in New York but was making her first start since finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IT) Nov. 2.
Castellano said the favorite failed to quicken in the stretch.
"When the other horses started coming on, I started to get my spot to get a jump on the horses coming from behind. When I made that move, she was just (running) even in the stretch. But she came back good; she didn't come back that tired at all."
Midnight Ballet, To My Valentine, Bethany Belle, and Rusty Slipper completed the order.
Unbelievable Dream made her debut last November going one mile at Aqueduct Racetrack on the turf and winning by three lengths. She suffered her only defeat in her next start, finishing fifth in a 1 1/8-mile allowance/optional claiming test Jan. 20 over the Gulfstream turf. Cut back to a mile for her next start, she was successful while rallying from 10th that day. The Appalachian victory doubled her career earnings to $120,735.
"She likes to do it, and she likes to win, and I could see that in the first races," Tagg said. "She was just caught in a wide trip in the middle there and she didn't get there in her second race. Her other two were impressive enough, and I just liked the way she was coming into it."
Carrying 118 pounds, Unbelievable Dream paid $11.80, $5.60, and $4.60, while keying a $74 exacta with 10-1 shot Overheard, who returned $8.40 and $6.40. Eden Prairie, off at 13-1, was $6.80 to show.
Fadeintoinfinity and Rutherford Rd scratched.
Rosario swept the first three races on the Keeneland card with Whatthecatdrugin ($3.80) (VIDEO), Hurricane Girl ($6.80) (VIDEO), and Mary At the Cove ($5.20) (VIDEO). His other victory came in the fifth aboard Southpaw Slammer ($5) (VIDEO).