Ben McElroy’s Roshani, the 6-5 favorite in a five-horse field, held off Lady Digby to win the $100,000 Gallorette Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) by a half-length on a tiring Pimlico turf course May 17.
The 1 1/16-mile race for older fillies and mares, the first grass race of any kind to be run during Preakness weekend at Pimlico, was completed in a slow 1:49.08.
Roshani, trained by Todd Pletcher, came to Pimlico off a fourth-place finish, beaten only a half-length for it all, to Rutherienne in the Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. IIT) April 12 at Keeneland. She had been prepped at Churchill Downs, working a half-mile in :47 3/5 May 10. The 5-year-old mare by Fantastic Light, out of the Deputy Minister mare Sahibah, was winning for the sixth time in 11 career starts.
Le Cordon Bleu took the early advantage in the Gallorette, setting early fractions of :25.41 and :50.28 over the course that was rated “good” after the deluge of rain that soaked the Baltimore area the preceding two days. She was tracked by Roshani and Earle I Mack’s homebred Lady Digby throughout the first turn and during the journey down the backstretch.
On the final bend, jockey John Velazquez asked, and Roshani responded by easily overtaking Le Cordon Bleu. Lady Digby, Jeremy Rose aboard, followed with a wide trip. In the slowly developing stretch run, Roshani and Lady Digby separated themselves from the challenging Valbenny. For a moment at the sixteenth pole, it appeared Lady Digby would pass Roshani. But the winner held firm when brought to even terms while coming out a little in the stretch. There was a jockey’s objection lodged by Rose but it was not allowed.
Velazquez said he was happy to be tackled by Lady Digby in the lane.
"I wanted to feel somebody right next to me, because (Roshani) got to the lead and started completely looking at the crowd and started to slow down," Velazquez said. "So I moved out to the other horse, but I never interrupted her or touched her. I just moved close. They claimed foul, but I never touched her.”
Rose said something made Lady Digby switch leads and drop the bit. "We were head and head at the time and had every opportunity to win the race.”
There was also a stewards’ inquiry into some action as the field went into the first turn, but it was quickly dismissed.
Roshani paid $4.40, $3, and $2.20, while Lady Digby paid $5 and $2.80. Second choice Valbenny, returning to action after an eight-month layoff, finished third under Edgar Prado, 4 1/2 lengths behind the runner-up, and paid $2.40. The $2 exacta paid $21.40. Stormy West and Le Cordon Bleu trailed. Debbie Sue and Saint Pegasus scratched.
"It didn’t look like there was a lot of early pace, but we were happy to follow (Le Cordon Bleu)," Pletcher noted. "It was pretty straight-forward. She’s a very classy filly. She shows up and runs hard every time and is consistently good.”
The winner was bred in Kentucky by Mill Ridge Farm and Tollie Otto’s Jamm Ltd. Last year Roshani won the Matchmaker Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Monmouth Park. She earned $60,000 for the victory and has now banked $331,300 in her career.