It was scratched down to a four-horse field, but there was still plenty of drama Friday in the Pimlico Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. III). Summer Colony took the lead in the stretch and looked like she would win the race for the second straight year, but Jerry Bailey drove favored Mandy's Gold by in the final yards to take the $150,000 race by a neck.
Each horse in the field of four had the lead at some point in the race. Stormy Frolic, ridden by Jose Santos, took the lead from Dance the Slew and Jeremy Rose heading into the home turn. Summer Colony, who took all the mud her the face running last for much of the race, came outside with John Velazquez to take the lead at the eighth pole.
Mandy's Gold was stuck inside in the stretch, but Bailey swung her to the outside for her winning move.
"Were you worried early in the race," asked Bailey, repeating a reporter's question. "Yes! Those aren't the words for it. Frustrated is the word. I was worried from the top of the stretch all the way to the wire."
"She had a hard year last year, and bled a touch. She really needed some time off and we gave it to her," said winning trainer Michael Gorham. "She came back strong and this race proved it. She got trapped back and inside. I was hoping she would get out sooner but when she did, Jerry did a great job of getting her home."
Summer Colony was making her first start since October while Mandy's Gold was racing for the fourth time in 2003, most recently running third behind Azeri and Take Charge Lady in Oaklawn's Apple Blossom (gr. I).
Summer Colony's trainer, Mark Hennig, conceded that the long layoff played a key role in the outcome.
"She's a hard filly to get fit. I thought we had her as fit as possible, but it was obvious she ran out of air a little bit the final sixteenth. On a normal track, I think she would have been fine."
Bred in Virginia by Audley Farm and racing for Steeplechase Farm, grade I winner Mandy's Gold was winning for the 11th time in 22 starts. The victory pushed her earnings past $1 million.
A 5-year-old Gilded Time mare, Mandy's Gold was last of the four when they turned for home. But Bailey moved her off the rail and with a well-time ride, got the victory. She paid $3.60 and $2.20 and ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.32 on a sloppy track.
Summer Colony, ridden by John Velazquez, paid $2.40 to place. Stormy Frolic was third, another 3 3/4 lengths behind, but there was no show wagering. The exacta with the two favorites returned $7.