Snowdrops captured Saturday's $100,000 My Charmer Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Calder turf with a well-timed late surge for jockey Brice Blanc, kicking off Grand Slam I with a slight upset.
The gray/roan Snow Drops completed the 1 1/8-mile event for fillies and mares in 1:48 1/5, finishing a half-length ahead of La Reina and jockey Mike Smith, who took the lead in deep stretch from Ticker Tape but could not hold off the winner. Ticker Tape, whose four-wide on the far turn propelled her to the lead under Jose Valdivia Jr., finished third.
"I started to get pinned in a little bit on the backside, so I had to work my way out in order to put her into contention," Blanc said. "Once we got clear running room, she took off. The closer we got to the leader, the faster she was running."
The 121-pound high weight Sand Springs, the 3-5 favorite in the field of nine, broke outwardly for Jerry Bailey and was well back early. She was hustled into contention behind a slow pace but flattened out in the stretch and finished fourth.
Snow Drops, a 5-year-old English-bred Gulch
mare, made a similar late run in the 2004 My Charmer but came up just short. The Christophe Clement trainee finished one length behind Something Ventured.
Carrying 115 pounds, Snowdrops was unhurried while racing toward the rear of the pack as Path of Thunder did the early running, leading the field through easy fractions of :24, :49 3/5 and 1:13 1/5. Pattiano and Sand Springs were the first to apply pressure on the front-runner, but Ticker Tape, picking off horses while moving up on the outside, swept to the lead in upper stretch. La Reina, following Ticker Tape into the lane, surged past her in late stretch before Snowdrops overtook her in the final strides.
"On paper it looked like there was more pace in there," Clement said. "I was quite certain that Sand Springs would be in front, but as it turned out, we got lucky with a good trip and she was best today."
Snowdrops, who won the Suwannee River Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park earlier this year, won for the third time in eight starts in 2005 for owner Howard G. Spinks. She ran her career record to 9-3-2 in 22 tries with earnings of $433,027.
Clement said Snowdrops could run one more time in the Bayou Handicap at Louisiana Downs before going back to England to be bred next year.
Sent off at odds of 9-2, Snowdrops paid $11.20, $5.40, and $4.20.
La Reina returned $6.80 and $5.40.
The grade I winner Ticker Tape, winless in seven starts in 2005 for trainer James Cassidy, was $5.80 to show.
After Sand Springs came Path of Thunder, Elle Runaway, Silver Lace, Pattiano, and Skip Command. Formal Miss and Spotlight scratched.