Bushfire completed back-to-back grade I wins at Belmont Park Saturday when she held off the fast-closing Pine Island for a three-quarters of a length victory in the $250,000 Mother Goose for 3-year-old fillies.
It was the third grade I win of the year for the Eddie Kenneally-trained Bushfire, who is building quite a resume in the first half of 2006 for a possible Eclipse Award in her division.
"The filly is maturing and has more patience," Kenneally said. "She's just a consistent hard-knocking filly. She had to run her eyeballs out today to hold those fillies off. We picked her out at the yearling sales for $37,000 and she's turned out to be a real bargain. I think this race will definitely put her at the head of the division, she's beat everybody. I would have to think she's at the head of the division and, hopefully, we can keep her there."
Ridden by Edgar Prado, her third rider in the past three starts, Bushfire completed the one-turn event at 1 1/8 miles on a fast sweeping Belmont main track in a so-so 1:49 4/5.
After leading early coming out of the gate, Bushfire settled into second as Teammate, who veered toward the inside from her rail post position at the start, recovered to take the lead. Teammate led Bushfire by a half-length after an opening quarter mile of :23 4/5 and the half in :46 3/5. Bushfire took the lead heading into the turn as Ready to Please and John Velazquez challenged on her outside. Ready to Please passed her briefly on the turn but Bushfire would not give in, fighting back to take command in the stretch. Pine Island, Javier Castellano aboard, closed quickly along the rail to get second but ran out of room before seriously threatening the winner. The budding talent Pine Island lost ground early when she stumbled at the start.
"I think the key to the race was the first quarter mile," Prado said. "She broke sharp, but she wasn't rank. She was relaxed and even when another horse came to us, she was still relaxed. She was waiting for me to tell her what to do. When I shook her up, she found another gear and went on with it."
Ready to Please took third with Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever, the 5-2 favorite in the field of seven, getting fourth.
Bushire, a daughter of Louis Quatorze
bred in Florida by Moreau Bloodstock International and Mandolynn Hill Farm, is owned by Ronald and Ricki Rashinski. She is out of the Mo Power mare Traki Traki.
She won the one-mile Acorn (gr. I) at Belmont by a neck in her last start June 10 and now has six wins in nine career tries with earnings of $783,299. She would need to win Belmont's $300,00 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at 10 furlongs on closing day July 22 to win New York's filly "Triple Tiara."
"She's had a hard campaign and she might need a little break now," said Kenneally. "It's starting to get hot as well. I think we're going to back off now and shoot for the fall. She likes Churchill Downs and we'd like to point her to the Breeders' Cup (Distaff) there. The Triple Tiara is very prestigious. I just wish the races were spread farther apart."
Kenneally said he might run Bushfire in the $600,000 Alabama (gr. I) at 10 furlongs at Saratoga on Aug. 19.
Earlier this year, she won the Ashland (gr. I) in front-running fashion by 6 1/2 lengths at Keeneland only to finish third (disqualified to sixth) in the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks a month later. The victory was her first in three tries at the nine-furlong distance.
Bushfire paid $8.60, $4.60, and $3.40. Phipps Stable's Pine Island returned $6.10 and $4.60 in her third career start for trainer Shug McGaughey.
"It looked like a strange start for a couple of horses, but she was clear and she kept running and galloped out real good," McGaughey said. "There were some nice horses in there with a lot more experience, and she beat the Kentucky Oaks winner and just got beat three-quarter of a length by the Ashland winner."
Ready to Please was $3.30 to show.
Beaten favorite and fourth-place finisher Lemons Forever may also be headed to the Alabama, trainer Dallas Stewart said.
"She kept grinding away and it looked to me that she was steadily trying to make up ground," he said. "But these one-turn races can be tough, and it might not be her thing."
Teammate, She's Excellent and Joint Effort completed the order of finish.
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