The Chilean-bred Ema Bovary captured the 10th win in her past 11 starts in the $500,000 Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. II) at Calder Race Course Saturday with a patient stalking ride from Northern California-based rider Roberto Gonzalez.
The Larry Ross-trained 5-year-old mare posted her biggest win in the Princess Rooney by two lengths over 4-5 choice Bear Fan, who was ridden by John Velazquez. Lady Tak, with Shane Sellers aboard, was third, 3 3/4 lengths behind Bear Fan. The final time was 1:10 4/5.
Ema Bovary, who carried 119 pounds, three less than Bear Fan, broke alertly from her outside post in the field of six, but took back as Lady Tak and Bear Fan hooked up through an opening quarter-mile in :21 2/5.
The two leaders battled head-and-head down the backstretch and around the turn through a half-mile in :44 as Gonzalez and Ema Bovary traveled comfortably while well off the rail. She continued to cut into the lead while coming under pressure in upper stretch and collared Bear Fan, who had edged ahead of Lady Tak at the eighth pole. With a sixteenth to go, Ema Bovary was in control.
Gonzalez said he thought the early fractions were a little too quick.
"I said to myself, 'If I'm four or five lengths off, I'll be in good shape.' Leaving the gate she shuffled back a little bit so I had to ask her a little until she finally got a hold of the racetrack. By the three-eighths pole I was in good shape."
He said he wanted to avoid taking an inside route and being stopped in the drive. "That's why I went outside. When she switched leads at the head of the stretch, I knew she would be tough."
The daughter of Edgy Diplomat lost her previous start, finishing second to Coconut Girl in the Desert Stormer (gr. III) at Hollywood Park June 5, after a poor break. She got caught in tight quarters on the turn, was shuffled back and unable to make up the lost ground in the stretch.
"She kind of got sucked down on the inside behind in her last race (Desert Stormer) and never really had a chance to run her race," Ross said. Today, she drew the outside in the clear and just ran her race. She came out of her last race so well, like she had never run, and we decided to come here. This is the best field she's beaten."
Ross said Ema Bovary would get a break now after a difficult series of races. He noted she is not eligible for the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) later this year.
"I don't know (about supplementing her). You could say this was her Breeders' Cup – 'Ema' does Miami."
Winning on her sixth different track over the past year, she improved to 13-3-0 in 19 starts while earning $294,000 for owners Richard T. Beal and Lana Ramsey-Borg. She has banked $721,642 in her career.
Ema Bovary paid $9.20, $3 and $2.10. Bear Fan returned $2.40 and $2.10. Lady Tak was $2.10 to show. The exacta was worth $19.20.
Mary Murphy, Puxa Saco and Harmony Lodge trailed.