Game Face Means Business in Old Hat
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Game Face cruises to victory in the Old Hat.
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Game Face, making the leap from the maiden ranks into graded stakes competition, made a decisive move around the turn and pulled away for an eye-opening, seven-length victory in the $150,000 Old Hat Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO) Jan. 12 at Gulfstream Park.

Starting for Zabeel Racing International and trainer Todd Pletcher, Game Face was making only her fourth career start. After losing in maiden special weight competition at Churchill Downs and Aqueduct to begin her career, the 3-year-old Menifee filly notched her first win Nov. 23 at Aqueduct, doing it by 7 ¼ lengths in a six-furlong event.

In the 6 ½-furlong Old Hat, Game Face broke slowly while even-money favorite Lovely Isle burst to the early lead. Lovely Isle went the first quarter in :21.82, with Throbbin’ Heart, Indy’s Alexandra, A Little Gem, and Melissa Jo following her.

But it was not long before John Velazquez began to move Game Face four-wide along the turn. The chestnut filly moved into third after a :44.56 half-mile and took over from Lovely Isle and Throbbin' Heart at the top of the lane. She kicked to a clear lead in upper stretch, leaving the remaining eight challengers well behind. Melissa Jo rallied to get second, 3 1/2 lengths lengths in front of 121-1 longshot Orinoquia.

The final time was 1:15.87.

“I tell you what, she was a little trouble to get into the gate, and then she broke a little sluggish coming out of there," Velazquez said. "It took her about a sixteenth-of-a-mile to get her legs underneath her. About the half-mile pole, I showed her the whip and she just took off. I ended up trying to slow her down going around the turn.

"I got her back and waited turning for home, and she gave me what she had after that. I knew from working her and riding her in her last race that she had this in her, but every time you step up into a stakes race you’ve got to step it up, and she did that today. She was trying to go from a maiden to a stakes and that always takes a big effort."

Out of Gone West mare Galleon of Gold, Game Face was bred in Kentucky by Marilyn Seltzer. She was a $280,000 purchase at the 2007 Ocala Breeders’ Sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Going off at odds of 3-1, Game Face paid $8.20, $4.40 and $4. The exacta (10-2) returned $69.20, while the trifecta (10-2-8) with Orinoquia, who paid $21.40 to show, earned bettors $1790.40.

Cozy Mesa was fourth, followed by Indy's Alexandra, Throbbin' Heart, Lovely Isle, A Little Gem, and Elusive Lady.

(Chart, Equibase)

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