Sondra Bender's Promenade Girl spoiled the return to action of Round Pond in Sunday's $294,000 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) for fillies and mares on a sloppy track at Monmouth Park.
The pacesetting Promenade Girl, ridden by Jeremy Rose, was passed briefly at the sixteenth pole, but dug in under strong urging from her rider to outfight the 1-2 choice Round Pond by a head in the 1 1/16-mile event. The final time was 1:42 4/5 over the sealed strip.
"Round Pond got a neck, head in front of me at the eighth pole," Rose said. "I hit her left-handed, and I could feel her coming back. My horse did most of it."
Promenade Girl, a 4-year-old Maryland-bred filly by Carson City--Promenade Colony (Pleasant Colony), earned her first graded stakes victory for trainer Lawrence Murray. The victory was her third in four starts on an off-track.
Just five started in the Molly Pitcher after the scratch of leading contender Capeside Lady.
Promenade Girl set an even pace while under a firm hold from Rose – :24 2/5, :47 4/5 and 1:11 3/5 – when challenged by Round Pond, ridden by Joe Bravo, approaching the quarter pole. Promenade Girl floated out coming off the far turn, taking Round Pond with her, and the two dueled all the way down the lane. Passed on the outside by Round Pond, Promenade Girl battled back with determination to get up in the final couple of strides.
Round Pond, expected to be among the leaders in the distaff division this year, carried top weight of 121 pounds, four more than the winner. Round Pond had not been out since defeating Happy Ticket by a neck in Oaklawn Park's Azeri Breeders' Cup (gr. III) March 11. Sidelined with a foot injury, she made her first start for trainer Michael Matz Sunday after being transferred from John Servis' stable by owner Fox Hill Farms Inc.
"She ran a good race considering she's been out so long," Matz said. "I was disappointed with the result, but I was pleased with her."
Promenade Girl, a winner of three of six starts in 2006, was coming off a 4 1/4-length victory in the Golden Sylvia Stakes at Mountaineer Park June 20. She has won eight of 14 in her career and pushed her earnings to $460,540 for Bender, who also bred the filly. Sunday's victory was worth $180,000.
"She's such a good shipping filly that we don't hesitate to send her out of town," said the Maryland-based Murray. "She hasn't raced since June because there weren't any spots at home, so it became a built-in break. It worked out well because it's been such a hot summer. After she won at Mountaineer, we gave her the time off and pointed for this race."
Second choice in the wagering, Promenade Girl paid $7.60, $2.80, and $2.10. Round Pond returned $2.20 and $2.10. It was 4 3/4 lengths back to third-place finisher La Reason, who paid $2.10.
Lexi Star and Friel's for Real trailed.