Lucifer's Stone was bottled up in the slow-paced $264,000 Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IT), but when the opportunity arose in mid-stretch, jockey Jose Santos shot the filly through the gap to register an upset over a pair of well-fancied European fillies on the Belmont Park turf Sunday.
Lucifer's Stone, whose only previous graded stakes score came in the Herecomesthebride Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park in February, won for the fourth time in five starts with Santos in the irons. She tallied at odds of 9-1 by 1 1/4 lengths over the French-bred Barancella, who was the longest shot in the field of six betting interests.
Trained by Linda Rice, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Horse Chestnut
–Ladue (Demons Begone) completed the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-old fillies in 1:48 4/5 on an inner turf course rated "good."
"Jose rode her beautifully," Rice said. "We were a little concerned about there being a lack of pace. Those were the two horses that Jose and I picked to be in front of us. There are a couple of grade I winners in the race and she really had to deliver."
Trapped in mid-pack behind dawdling fractions, the bay filly responded between horses to overpower Noahs Arc and Mambo Slew in deep stretch. Barancella, ridden by Jorge Chavez, rallied from sixth while four wide for second in her first American start for trainer Freddie Head. Noahs Arc, an Irish bred also making her United States debut, held on for third, two lengths behind the winner with Javier Castellano aboard.
But it was two other Euro entrants, Irish-bred Torrestrella, and English-bred Necklace, who captured most of the attention from bettors. Both were group I winners overseas, Torrestrella at Longchamp earlier this year, and Necklace at Ireland's Curragh as a 2-year-old. Necklace was a strong-closing third against older fillies in mares in the Beverly D. (gr. IT) at Arlington Park last month
Torrestrella, the 8-5 favorite ridden by Corey Nakatani, was rank while refusing to be held in while racing at the hedge down the backstretch in the one-turn race. She steadied repeatedly on the backstretch and fanned out to last in the stretch without making a move. She finished sixth.
"We were trying to rate her today," Nakatani said. "In hindsight I bet the thing to do would be to let her get out there and relax. We tried something and it didn't work."
Necklace, sent off at 9-5 with regular rider Jamie Spencer aboard, ranged up from the back of the compact field to launch her bid in the stretch, but flattened out and was edged by a neck for third.
"The way we were planning was the way the race set up," said winning jockey Jose Santos. "My filly was pretty relaxed. When I came out the last eighth of a mile and was in between horses I just showed her the whip."
Santos suffered a hairline fracture in his right arm after an accident in the paddock on July 23. He missed most of the prestigious Saratoga meeting, returning on Aug. 27 and is slowly picking up mounts. The Garden City was his first stakes victory since the injury.
Saratoga Sugar, a maiden entered to set the pace for stablemate Mambo Slew, set the early fractions of :25 and :49 3/5 before giving way to Noahs Arc, who prompted the early pace before taking over. She completed six furlongs in 1:13 4/5 and the mile in 1:37 2/5, but could not hold off the late challenges of Lucifer's Stone and Barancella.
Lucifer's Stone, who won back-to-back stakes for Team Solaris Stable earlier this year, was coming off a fifth-place finish in the Lake George (gr. IIIT) at Saratoga Aug. 2. She was entered to run in the Lake Placid (gr. IIT) Aug. 23, but was scratched on the day of the race by Rice because of an unsatisfactory blood test result.
Rice said that she would point Lucifer's Stone to the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth (gr. I) at 1 1/8 miles at Keeneland on Oct. 16.
A $150,000 Fasig-Tipton purchase in February 2003, Lucifer's Stone won for the fifth time in 10 lifetime starts and for the fourth time in six outings this year. The $180,000 winning purse increased her career earnings to $405,991.
Spotlight, who won the Lake Placid by 3 1/2 lengths, was scratched from the Garden City by trainer Christophe Clement. Venturi, who was second in the Lake George in her U.S. debut, was scratched by Bobby Frankel.
Lucifer's Stone paid $20.40, $7.50 and $5.50. Barancella returned $19 and $8.90 while completing a $259.50 exacta. Noahs Arc's show was $4.90.
After Necklace came Mambo Slew, Torrestrella and Saratoga Sugar.