Trained by Larry Jones for owner/breeder Brereton Jones, the former Governor of Kentucky, Proud Spell dominated the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) this spring by five lengths. But she lost some of her luster in the Mother Goose (gr. I) at Belmont Park June 28 when she was handily beaten by Music Note in the Mother Goose (gr. I) June 28. Then Music Note registered an 11-length win in the July 19 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I), a race trainer Jones passed in favor of the Delaware Oaks (gr. II) the preceding week.
After the daughter of Proud Citizen won the Delaware Oaks, Jones warned observers not to put too much stock in the Mother Goose defeat. And Proud Spell confirmed her trainer's confidence, responding with probably the biggest race of her career in the 1 1/4-mile Alabama.
After getting the lead from Music Note's Godolphin stablemate Little Belle on the far turn, Proud Spell, ridden by Gabriel Saez, was tackled in the lane by Music Note on the outside. Music Note, with Javier Castellano aboard, appeared to have the momentum leaving the eighth pole, but Proud Spell fought back tenaciously, getting the edge in the final couple of strides in a gutty effort by both fillies.
It was quite a day for the ecstatic Larry Jones, who also won the $300,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth Park a half-hour earlier with Honest Man.
“This filly of ours has never been passed down the stretch the entire time we’ve had her," the trainer said. "I told Gabriel, ‘Do not let Music Note in front. I don’t care if you have to ride her all the way to the barn area, down Nelson Avenue, or what, she don’t get in front.’ Because if you come up to her and eyeball her, you won’t beat her. As soon as Music Note got to her, the race was on, and she dug in and found a way to out-gut her.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt she’s the leading three-year-old filly," Jones added. "This filly has been around all year. She was the second-leading money-winning horse this year anyway. Don’t get me wrong, Music Note is a very nice filly.
"But this filly has been here all year. She was the first horse to beat Indian Blessing, who was the champion. She showed up for the Kentucky Oaks, she’s still around for the Alabama, she won the $500,000 Delaware Oaks … in my mind, there’s no doubt she’s the best three-year-old filly in the country, and hopefully we showed it here today. It came down to an eyeball-to-eyeball contest and Proud Spell was actually getting away from her at the end.”
Just five ran in the Alabama after the scratch of Skylighter, and there were only four betting interests with the Godolphin entry dominating the wagering at odds of 2-5. Little Belle, who ran second to both Proud Spell (in the Kentucky Oaks) and Music Note (Coaching Club) in her last two starts, established the lead over Proud Spell and set deliberate fractions under Rajiv Maragh (:24.97, :50.22, 1:14.70) as Music Note tracked from the back of the pack. Rounding the far turn, Proud Spell tightened up on the leader as Music Note ranged into contention while racing three paths wide.
Proud Spell, who bobbled a bit at the start, rallied to get the lead near the quarter pole and led before being challenged mid-stretch by Music Note. The duo dug in from there to produce a classic finish. They came home in a final quarter-mile of just over 25 seconds while posting a an unimpressive final time of 2:04.08 on a track rated 'fast.'
"When I got to the eighth pole, I had to push a little harder," Saez said. "When I saw Music Note come along side of us, I told my filly, `C’mon, let’s start running.’ It was an exciting finish. ”
Never worse than third in 11 lifetime starts, Proud Spell's seventh win was worth $360,000 and increased her net earnings to $1,975,110. The Kentucky-bred bay is out of Pacific Spell, by Langfuhr .
Sent off as the second choice, she paid $5.90 and $2.60. Music Note, who was being considered for next weekend's Travers (gr. I) up until today, returned $2.10. The $2 exacta paid $7.90. Little Belle finished third, 4 1/2 lengths behind, with Mushka and Sweet Vendetta far back in the small field.
“It was a great race," said Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "Our filly (Music Note) ran a big race; we’re happy with the way she finished the race. It was so close; it was a tough race.”
Jones said he was unsure of where Proud Spell would show up next.
"We’ll see how she comes out of this," he said. "We’ll try to enjoy this win a little more than the Kentucky Oaks, because that got short-tailed (in the Mother Goose). We’ll plan something for her later.”
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