The 5-year-old Dynaformer mare registered her first graded stakes win in game fashion while racing wide all the way and completing the 1 1/16-mile test for fillies and mares in 1:47 2/5.
James Toner trains Masseuse for a partnership that includes Henry R.C. Elser and Ronald, Patricia and Justin Nicholson.
Breaking from the extreme outside in a field reduced to seven by three scratches, Masseuse raced on the outside of her rivals through the clubhouse turn and onto the backstretch as Samsincharge set an easy pace for the opening three quarters of a mile -- :25 2/5, :51 2/5 and 1:17. Masseuse turned up the pressure on the final turn and responded to urging to collar the new leader Stormy Kiss and Eibar Coa soon after reaching the stretch. The duo fought it out through the lane with Masseuse, under steady pressure from Prado, getting the advantage in the final strides.
It was a big effort for the Argentine-bred Stormy Kiss, a sprinter making her debut on the turf for trainer Barclay Tagg. the 5-year-old Bernstein mare finished 2 1/2 lengths in front of Finlandia and Kent Desormeaux, who nosed Artistic Express for third. Miss Shop, the 13-10 favorite coming off a grade II win on the Gulfstream Park grass March 11, was a neck behind those two.
Masseuse was coming off a hard-fought third in Tamp Bay Downs' Hillsborough (gr. IIIT) March 17, her first start since last August when she was vanned off after being eased early in the Matchmaker (gr. IIIT) at Monmouth Park. She has won four of 10 lifetime starts and increased her earnings to $212,610. She earned $68,160 Saturday.
“She did hang a little bit at the end, but I don’t think she was crazy about the course,” said Toner, who nursed Masseuse back from a pulled gluteal. “I think she would have kicked on a little bit more with firmer ground. I think she did this strictly on her own, strictly class. I’ve got some big goals picked out for her, and she’s taken the next step.”
Toner said Masseuse would either go in the $150,000 All Along Breeders’ Cup (gr. IIIT) at nine furlongs on the turf at Colonial Downs on June 16, or Belmont Park’s $150,000 New York Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) at 10 furlongs on the turf on June 23.
“I guess she was just healing old wounds,” Prado said of her layoff. “I thought she handled things real well. The course is very soft, especially at the half-mile pole – it’s like a swamp. She really tried and fought very hard.”
Cherry Valley Farm LLC bred the dark bay Masseuse in Kentucky. She is out of the Mr. Prospector mare Pedicure.
Sent off as the second choice, she paid $6.30, $4 and $3, teaming with Stormy Kiss ($9.70, $4.40) for a $57.50 exacta. Finlandia, the second choice, was $3.10 to show in her first since winning a New York-bred stakes at Belmont Park Oct. 21 for trainer Thomas Bush.
Wait It Out and Samsincharge trailed. A True Pussycat, Rahys' Appeal and Swap Fliparoo scratched.