Passed in the stretch, Stellar Jayne turned back Daydreaming in the final furlong to capture the $250,000 Gazelle Handicap (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies Saturday, her second grade I win of the summer at Belmont Park.
The 1-2 favorite in the field of six, Stellar Jayne, carrying high weight of 122 pounds. was guided to victory by Robby Alabarado for trainer D. Wayne Lukas and owners Spendthrift Farm, Nancy Cole, Charles Kidder and Nick Strong. She completed the 1 1/18-mile, one-turn distance in 1:48 1/5, winning by one length over Daydreaming. He Loves Me was third, 2 3/4 lengths behind the winner.
It was the third Gazelle victory for Lukas, who won this race in 1995 with Serena's Song an in 1988 with Classic Crown.
With rivals Ashado and Society Selection passing on the Gazelle, Stellar Jayne can lay claim to the division's leadership with her solid summer, which included a 2 1/2-length win over Ashado in the Mother Goose (gr. I) at the identical Belmont one-turn, 1 1/8-mile distance of the Gazelle. She was coming off of a pair of seconds in the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) on a muddy Belmont strip July 24 and the Aug. 21 Alabama (gr. I) on sloppy going at Saratoga in her most recent start Aug. 21. Both seconds came at a distance of 10 furlongs.
"She's 1,200 pounds of heart," said Lukas' assistant, Peter Hutton. "She's really incredible. She was sharp and on her toes in the post parade, and that gave Robby a lot of confidence. Robby wasn't out there to put anyone away early. I knew after a half-mile there was going to be a sprint home. And the best horse won the race."
Stellar Jayne went to the lead soon after the start and carved out easy fractions of :24, :48 and 1:12 2/5 when Daydreaming, ridden by John Velazquez, came off the rail to challenge. He Loves Me, well back in the pack, wound up for a wide run at the leaders coming out of the turn, but soon flattened out as Stellar Jayne and Daydreaming took up the stretch fight.
Daydreaming, who had a seven-pound weight break, put a head in front in upper stretch. Stellar Jayne, a little slow to respond, came under left-handed urging and picked it up at the eighth pole, eventually easing back into the lead and winning while slowly edging away at the wire.
"Today I figured I could let them get by her a little bit. I know she fights," said Albarado, who picked up his first Gazelle victory. "She comes back. I didn't have to hit her that much, just a few times left-handed. She went on about her business. She wants to fight. When Johnny (Velazquez on Daydreaming) ran up to me, I was confident. Champion fillies have run up to her and she's turned them back. I rode her with a lot of confidence."
Velazquez took the blame for Daydreaming's defeat.
"It was great effort from her and a bad ride from me," Velazquez said. "I tried to do something different. I tried to discourage her early. Maybe I moved a sixteenth of a mile too early."
Stellar Jayne, a gray/roan daughter of Wild Rush who had lost seven straight before waking up with a victory in the Dogwood Breeders' Cup (gr. III) June 5 at Churchill Downs, has now won three of her last five starts. Her victory in the Mother Goose came at odds of 29-1, but she has since established herself as a leading candidate for the nine-furlong Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Lone Star Park Oct. 30.
Overall, she has won six of 16 starts with earnings of $846,551.
She paid $3, $2.30 and $2.10. Daydreaming returned $3.50 and $2.10. He Loves Me, ridden by Jozbin Santana, was $2.10 to show.
Shadow Cast was nosed for third. My Lordship and Bending Strings trailed. Capeside Lady, Magical Illusion and Mambo Bell were scratched.