English shipper Nahrain knifed between the Chad Brown duo of Zagora and Dream
Peace to get up late in Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000
Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park, but the stewards wasted no time in
posting the inquiry sign. Nahrain and 2-1 favorite Dream Peace had brushed as
both launched their bids turning for home, and Dream Peace's hind end was
knocked sideways. But the replay didn't conclusively prove fault, and the Darley
Stable homebred was allowed to keep her victory, and its accompanying automatic
berth to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
Runner-up in last year's Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs, Nahrain had failed to run up to that level so far in 2012. The Roger Varian trainee was a disappointing ninth in her comeback in the Group 2 Windsor Forest at Royal Ascot, and didn't move forward when a well-beaten eighth in the Group 1 Nassau at Glorious Goodwood. The daughter of Selkirk showed a glimmer of hope in her third outing of the season, finishing third in the Group 2 Blandford Stakes at the Curragh on September 9, and improved again with the addition of Lasix here.
"She showed us in her last start when she was third at the Curragh that she was coming back to herself," Varian said. "Her first two runs in the summer, the level of form she showed was incomparable to the high level of form she showed last year, so when we went to Ireland we were just hoping she was going to show us something. When she ran third -- of course, we would have liked to have won that day, it was only a Group 2 -- it was her first race this year where she finished strongly to the line and showed she was on her way back."
In the early going, Hit It Rich carved out slow fractions of :25 1/5, :51 3/5 and 1:17 2/5 on the yielding inner turf. California invader Halo Dolly stalked in second, Bizzy Caroline hugged the rail behind the leader, and Zagora crept up into fourth. Nahrain came next with new rider John Velazquez. Hessonite, who was checked in a tight spot early, was shuffled back to sixth. Biding their time in the back were Dream Peace and the English-based I'm a Dreamer, the Grade 1 Beverly D. winner who got off a beat slow on Saturday.
Leaving the far turn, Zagora swept past the tiring Hit It Rich and Halo Dolly. Nahrain was beginning to gear up, as was Dream Peace to her outside. Dream Peace was momentarily unbalanced by the contact, and did well to regain her footing so quickly.
Meanwhile, Zagora sped away and established a daylight advantage. Dream Peace bravely clawed back the yardage to emerge as a threat in deep stretch, but Nahrain was also finding her best stride, and I'm a Dreamer was making headway along the fence.
Nahrain finished with a flourish between foes to win going away by a half-length, with Zagora holding second by a nose from stablemate Dream Peace. After negotiating 1 1/4 miles on the soggy course in 2:05 2/5, the 5-1 Nahrain paid $12, $7.90 and $4.30.
"We had a great trip," Velazquez said. "We got a really nice position in the first part of the race and then we got hung out a little bit wide on the first turn, but I didn't want to take too much hold of her. We were going pretty slow and I didn't want to take away what she was doing easy. We got to the three-eighths pole and she was going easy, then I had to ride her really hard. The other horse (Dream Peace) came to her outside, then she started to run.
"I was already there," the Hall of Famer said of his position during the incident turning for home. "Here comes Julien (Leparoux aboard Dream Peace) and he probably thought I was going to wheel out. I never wheeled out, got into the clear, and he probably wanted to push me in, and it turned my horse sideways. He probably wanted to hold me in there."
"I thought both horses ran well," Brown said of his second- and third-place finishers. "By no fault of Ramon (Dominguez) -- it was such slow pace -- (Zagora) inherited the lead, and had to go on. I don't know if she really saw that horse (Nahrain) coming or not. I thought she ran very well.
"Dream Peace had a rough trip; she was a little far back on a slow pace, had to go widest of all. She got bumped turning for home and hung a bit down the lane, so it wasn't an ideal trip for her."
"It was a good trip," jockey Julien Leparoux said of his view aboard Dream Peace. "She was relaxed, right behind Johnny (Velazquez aboard Nahrain). I tried to make a run on him, we got a little bump coming out of the turn. She ran big, she tried hard. I think the bump cost her a little bit. She lost a little bit of action."
I'm a Dreamer checked in another half-length away in fourth. Hessonite wound up fifth, trailed by Bizzy Caroline, Hit It Rich and Halo Dolly. Starformer was scratched.
With this second top-level success on her resume, Nahrain became a millionaire with $1,041,859 in earnings from her 9-5-1-1 line. The British-bred daughter of Selkirk was unraced at two, but won her first four career starts last season as a sophomore. After breaking her maiden at Windsor, she romped by five lengths in a Haydock handicap, and made a victorious stakes debut in the Distaff at Sandown. Nahrain stepped up considerably in class for the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp, where she prevailed in a photo with Announce. She suffered her first loss when a fine second in the Filly & Mare Turf.
"We're in (the Breeders' Cup) now, aren't we?" Varian noted after the Flower Bowl. "We were second last year. From when she was second last year we were keen to have another toot at it this year. She's shown up today, hasn't she?"
The flashy chestnut earned the Flower Bowl title that eluded her dam, Group 2 heroine Bahr, who finished third in the 1998 running. A dual classic-placed daughter of Generous, Bahr is also responsible for multiple English stakes victress Baharah.
Nahrain's third dam is New Zealand champion two-year-old filly La Mer, ancestress of another Kiwi highweight juvenile in Little Jamie.