South African champion Ipi Tombe moved another step closer to her American racing debut, turning in a sharp five furlong workout Thursday on Churchill Downs' Matt Winn Turf Course.
The Elliott Walden-trained daughter of Manshood had jockey Pat Day in the saddle for the first time as she covered the distance around the dogs on "firm" turf in 1.01.20. She worked in company with stablemate Miss Marcia, who was ridden by Louise Hatfield and broke off several lengths in front of her workmate, but Ipi Tombe then easily moved past that rival in the stretch. Miss Marcia also completed her work in 1:01.20.
"I was very pleased and I'm glad that he (Walden) gave me the opportunity to be on her," said Day. "She can be a little headstrong early, for 40 or 50 yards, and then she'll come back to you -- and he wanted me to feel that so I knew what I would be dealing with in the afternoon. When we started off away from the pole she was real strong. She tugged on me pretty good and then came back to me, and then was just as nice as you want her to be from there on. We came off the corner and, with just minimal encouragement, she really accelerated -- I mean, right now -- and then galloped on out strong. It was nothing less than what we expected, but it was different to see and to feel it."
Day was impressed with Ipi Tombe, who defeated males in her most recent start in the Dubai Duty Free on the Dubai World Cup undercard at Nad Al Sheba in late March. The Dubai victory was her seventh consecutive victory and her 11th in 13 races.
"She's got wonderful acceleration, wonderful action and she's very athletic," Day said. "When she quickens her legs don't start going faster, she just starts extending farther. It's remarkable."
Ipi Tombe was purchased earlier this year by a partnership that includes Team Valor, WinStar Farm, and Sunmark Partners and her U.S. debut will be her first race for Walden. Thursday's breeze was the second by the South African champion on the Churchill Downs grass course since her arrival in Walden's barn in early April.
"I just thought it was super -- just the way we drew it up," said Walden. "We wanted them to start off together and then ease her back so Pat could get a feel of how difficult she can be. She's a little tough in the first part of her races, it looks like on tape. She settled for him and then finished up good."
Walden said the $150,000-added Locust Grove (gr. III) on June 28 at Churchill Downs remains on the list of possible races in which Ipi Tombe could make her U.S. bow. Other races getting a look from Walden include the $250,000 New York Handicap (gr. II) on July 4 at Belmont Park; the $150,000-added Dance Smartly (Can-III) at Woodbine on July 4; and the $150,000 All Along Breeders' Cup (gr. III) at Colonial Downs on July 12.