Winstar Farms' License Fee was allowed to set a moderate pace and then drew away to a five-length victory in Sunday's $300,000 Sixty Sails Handicap (gr. III) at Sportsman's Park. Under Larry Melancon, License Fee completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.11 on a fast track.
Melancon last rode License Fee in the $100,000 Dr. James Penny Handicap at Philadelphia Park last July, leading at every pole to notch a 1 1/2-length win over Mysterious Moll.
"Elliott (Walden, winning trainer) said that if I made the lead easy to go ahead with her," Melancon said. "We felt the only other speed in the race was Megans Bluff. She broke sharp and relaxed right away. It was an easy win."
License Fee ran opening fractions of :24.17 and :49.11 while tracked by 19-10 favorite Lady Melesi, with Megans Bluff two lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile. Lady Melesi and Megans Bluff put in a slight challenge as License Fee ran six furlongs in a comfortable 1:13.10. The leader kicked clear from there, as the top three finishers were one-two-three at every call. Lady Melesi finished second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Megans Bluff.
"She (Lady Melesi) had dead aim on (the winner)," said jockey Craig Perret. "My filly ran a good race and I'm not going to make any excuse for her."
On a Soapbox was six lengths farther back in fourth, followed by Adam's Time, Bugsy Mae, Faccia Bella, and Royal Bandita.
The win was the first for License Fee since winning the Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Saratoga in August in wire-to-wire style. The 6-year-old daughter of Black Tie Affair, out of the Deputy Minister mare Star Deputy, has racked up three second-place finishes in her five races bookended by her two latest wins. Her last win on the main track came in a seven furlong allowance race at Belmont Park in June of 1999 while trained by Stanley Hough. Walden has conditioned license Fee since the fall of 1999. She earned $180,000 for the win, her 14th in 40 career starts, to boost her career earnings past the $1 million mark. Pedigree Farms bred License Fee in Ontario.
"Our goal at the start of the year was to make her a millionaire," Walden said. "We waited on a race on Derby Day at Churchill Downs but that was only $100,000. This was $300,000 and the reason we decided to come here instead. She has been racing well on the turf so I suppose I set myself up for some criticism if she hadn't raced well today."
The third choice in the wagering, License Fee returned $9.20, $4, and $2.80. Lady Melesi paid $3.40 and $2.20. Megans Bluff was worth $2.40 to show. The winning exacta combination returned $36.80. (Chart, Equibase