Proving she can handle the dirt as well as the turf, Kristine and John Richter's homebred Bien Nicole won Saturday's $200,000 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) Saturday for fillies and mares in a surprise.
Ridden by Don Pettinger, the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Bien Bien carrying top weight of 122 pounds, ranged wide to catch the leaders on the turn and edged clear at the end to gamely defeat Red 'nGold by 1 1/4 length. Mandy's Gold, the 2-5 favorite, was two lengths behind the winner. Final time for the 1 1/16-mile event was 1:44.19.
Mandy's Gold, with Rene Douglas aboard, was allowed to set an easy early pace of :24 1/5 and :48 2/5 before Red n'Gold came to pressure on the final turn, Red n'Gold, with T.J. Thompson riding, put her head in front after Mandy's Gold took a bad step, and battled Bien Nicole into deep stretch before giving way.
Bien Nicole, who had a five-race winning streak on the grass for trainer Donnie Von Hommel last year, won for the second time in four tries on dirt. It was her first graded stakes victory. She enjoyed great success in 2002 with a 6-2-2 record in 10 starts. Saturday was her 2003 debut and her first start since finishing third in the Cardinal Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 23.
Overall, Bin Nicole is 9-5-2 in 17 starts and has never finished worse than fourth. Saturday's triumph was worth $120,000 to her connections and improved her career earnings to more than $500,000.
Sent off at 8-1, she paid $18, $7 and $2.40. Red n'Gold returned $7.40 and $2.40. Mandy's Gold's show price was $2.20. The $2 exacta was worth $117.80.