Battle-tested In the Gold, given a confident ride by Gary Stevens, outlasted odds-on favorite Leave Me Alone to win the $250,000 Gazelle (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park Saturday.
The Nick Zito-trained filly by Golden Missle, making her second start after a two-month layoff, pulled away to win by 2 1/4 lengths, completing the 1 1/8-mile one-turn test in 1:49 3/5. In the Gold, who earned $210,000 for owner Live Oak Plantation, was the 9-5 second choice in the field of five.
"It gets cool up in Saratoga," said Zito. "Once we had a couple of cool days, she started to blossom a little bit. She's doing much better. In the warm weather in the summertime, she `horses' a lot. She also had a tough campaign. She had a freshening, and a lot of fillies get better in the fall."
Zito said that the $2 million Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) on Oct. 29 at Belmont Park is in the plans.
"I will probably tell Miss (Charlotte) Weber that, if we take a shot at the Breeders' Cup, maybe we should go all the way and train her up to it."
California invader Leave Me Alone, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, was shipping to New York looking for her second grade I win in a month after taking the Test (gr. I) at Saratoga Aug. 6. She got a fast break to lead after an opening quarter mile in :24 and an even better opportunity after speedster Dancing Edie stumbled badly coming out of the gate and was all but eliminated at the start. But after leading through a :46 3/5 half-mile, she came under steady pressure from Yolanda B. Too on her outside. She owned a slight advantage after completing six furlongs in 1:10 4/5 and eased away from Yolanda B. Too in upper stretch.
But Leave Me Alone had nothing left when immediately tackled by In the Gold, who was in a stalking position on the outside throughout. In the Gold responded to urging to take the lead in the final furlong and pulled away on the outside.
"She was a completely different filly today," Stevens said. "Nick told me she had been `in season' for a long time. She's not now. Warming up, she was very aggressive. Today, she broke sharp and just took me around there. I was very confident."
Leave Me Alone, who carried top weight of 119 pounds, two more than In the Gold, held on for second, one length in front of Yolanda B. Too and jockey Jerry Bailey.
"She didn't have the same turn of foot. It was a different track today and a different race than the Test," trainer Eric Kruljac said of Leave Me Alone. "Kent said the track was heavy and laboring. She plugged away all the way to the eighth-pole, but just couldn't answer Nick's horse. We'll ship her back to Santa Anita."
In the Gold, who ran third in the Test in her last start, had three previous tries at 1 1/8 miles and finished second in all of them. She broke her maiden at Belmont going a mile in the mud almost a year ago and was third over the surface in June's Acorn (gr. I). Her only prior graded stakes win came in the Beaumont (gr. II) at seven furlongs at Keeneland April 14. The victory, her fourth in 12 starts – she has finished off the board only once in her career – increased her earnings to $688,742.
Whitewood Stable Inc. bred In the Gold in Kentucky. From the Groovy mare Incinerate, she was a $250,000 sale at Fasig-Tipton in August 2003.
The winner paid $5.90, $2.50, and $2.10. Leave Me Alone, who was making her first start beyond 1 1/6 miles, returned $2.40 and $2.10. Yoland B. Too, in her stakes debut, was $2.10 to show.
Seeking the Ante finished fourth. Dancing Edie was eased in the stretch.