Despite her slow break, odds-on favorite Sense of Style, guided by Edgar Prado, remained unbeaten with a facile one-length victory in the $300,000 Matron (gr. I) for 2-year-old fillies at Belmont Park Sunday.
Sense of Style spotted the frontrunners seven lengths early on, but when Prado called on her to move up on the turn in the one-turn mile, she easily swept around her five opponents. Challenged briefly by Play With Fire near the eighth pole, Sense of Style pulled away under slight urging. Prado gave her four left-handed taps of the whip down the long Belmont stretch.
"She threw her head to the side, and unfortunately, broke slow," said Prado. "I didn't want to rush her into the race. I called on her a little bit at the half-mile pole, and in three jumps, she caught up right away. I didn't want anyone to get away from us and steal the race. She's getting better with the races and better with the distances."
United Arab Emirates-bred Balletto closed impressively along the inside to be second, with Play With Fire three-quarters of a length behind in third. The winning time was 1:37 3/5, more than a second faster than the Futurity, which was run a race earlier.
"It wasn't the best race, but she is a very good horse," winning trainer Patrick Biancone said after the Matron. "She ran a good race. I didn't want to see her go to the front, so the break wasn't too bad. The pace was slow, and Edgar had to come four-wide with her. When she got in front, it looked like she was going to win easy, but there was another horse (Play With Fire) coming, and she answered her.
"She is just too good. I don't know what we'll do next with her. She has run three times in 50 days."
Biancone said Sense of Style, a daughter of Thunder Gulch–Save Me the Waltz (Kings Lake), could have one more start before the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Lone Star Park Oct. 30.
Sense of Style, the Spinaway (gr. II) winner at Saratoga Aug. 20, has won three in a row to begin her career. She increased her earnings to $257,000 for owners Michae Tabor and Derrick Smith.
She paid $2.70, $2.20 and $2.10 as the 3-10 choice. Balleto, ridden by Aaron Gryder, returned $3.80 and $2.10. Play With Fire, Pablo Fragoso aboard, was $2.10 to show.
Balletto's late rally was encouraging to trainer Tom Albertrani, who will look at either Belmont Park's $500,000 Frizette (gr. I) for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on Oct. 9 or Keeneland's $400,000 Darley Alcibiades (gr. II) on Oct. 8 for her next start.
"She might have been in a little tight at one point," Albertrani said. "She really kicked in late. The longer the better for her. We'll see how she comes out of this race, and talk it over."
Trainer Mark Hennig said he may also run Play With Fire back at Belmont.
"She gave us a thrill there at the quarter-pole, but she wheeled out and ran a bit uncharacteristically," he said. "I wish she had been a little sharper today going the mile, and with the wind blowing, sometimes it gets them more on the muscle. But she hung in there and I think she will keep improving."
Darn That Gal finished fourth. Fifth-place Graceful Nancy set early fractions of :24 2/5 and :48 before being overtaken by last-place finisher Summer Raven briefly on the turn.