Phillips Racing Partnership's homebred La Cloche came flying with a tremendous late kick to win the $150,000 Athenia Stakes (gr. IIIT) by 1 1/4 lengths at Belmont Park Oct. 13, her first graded score (VIDEO) .
The 5-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper , half sister to the recently retired multiple grade I winner Winter Memories, completed 1 1/16 miles on an inner turf course rated "good" in 1:45.15 under jockey Junior Alvarado.
"John (Phillips) will be thrilled about the graded stakes win," remarked trainer Jim Toner. "That's all we've heard: 'Gotta get a graded stakes, gotta get a graded stakes, gotta get a graded stakes!' Thank God, maybe she can get out of her sister's shadow for a change. We're really happy for her."
It was The Underling who showed the way in the Athenia, powering through slow splits of :25.16 and :50.27 followed by Thundering Emilla, Law of the Range, and Laughing. Laughing was hard-held by jockey Cornelio Velasquez and was rank through much of the early going while La Cloche was a well-reserved sixth and then seventh in the eight-horse field.
"I just was waiting for my chance to move outside because she never runs one step on the inside," Alvarado said. "That was pretty much what I was trying to work out first. She was able to swing outside by the quarter pole, and after that I won't say it was really easy, but she took off. She really helped me and gave me a nice kick at the end."