Waterville Lake Stable's 13-1 shot Mariensky scored the biggest win of her career Saturday in the $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Handicap (gr. IIT) on a soft grass course at rain-soaked Belmont Park, leaving 3-5 favorite Lilac Queen in her wake.
Ridden by John Velazquez for trainer Christophe Clement, the 4-year-old Gulch filly won handily by 8 1/4 lengths over Owsley in a time of 2:28 for the 1 3/8-mile Sheepshead Bay. Silent Crystal was third, 13 lengths behind the winner. Eight competed.
"Obviously she likes it soft and ran a good race," said Clement. "I told Johnny just to make sure she relaxed."
Mariensky won for the second time in as many tries in 2003. She was winless in four United States starts last year after her transfer here from France.
After bumping at the break, Velazquez allowed Mariensky to draft behind the frontrunners in sixth position until beginning her move into contention on the final turn. The bay filly tracked Lilac Queen and jockey Jerry Bailey through the stretch and accelerated quickly with a big move past Owsley, ridden by Edgar Prado and Lilac Queen, who faded badly in the stretch to finish fifth. Silent Crystal, who was on the front end with jockey Mike Luzzi through fractions of :25 3/5, :52 4/5, 1:20 3/5 and 1:47 2/5, came on again after falling back to take third.
"I saw Jerry's horse moving on the backside. She was the one to beat so I followed her," Velazquez said. "When I asked her to run she was there. The ground was a plus for me. I guess she's used to this kind of course after running over there (in Europe.)"
Lilac Queen was undefeated in three U.S. starts for trainer Bobby Frankel and owner Gary Tanaka. After being outrun early, she made a three-wide move to catch Owsley, who had taken the lead at the head of the stretch, but had nothing left for the drive.
"This is the softest course I've ever been on," Bailey said. "It's in good shape, but it's really soft. She just didn't handle it."
Clement worked Mariensky with his Belmont Stakes hopeful Dynever last Sunday on the turf.
"She worked with Dynever and he outworked her," Clement said. "They finished together, but when she quickened at the quarter pole, he couldn't go with her for a sixteenth of a mile. He got to her at the one-eighth (pole) and was going away at the wire."
Mariensky won her fourth race in 13 career starts. A $200,000 Fasig-Tipton August yearling sale in 2000, she was bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm. The victory, worth $90,000, pushed her career earnings to more than $202,493.
The winner paid $29.40, $11.40 and $8.80. Owsley returned $5.50 and $4.70. Silent Crystal's show price was $11.80. the $2 exacta was worth $122.50.