Gallagher Eyes Oaks After Valbenny's Honeymoon Win
Ridden confidently by Alex Solis, even-money favorite Valbenny rallied to win the $154,750 Honeymoon Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) for 3-year-old fillies by nearly two lengths over Super Freaky on the Hollywood Park lawn Saturday.
Irish-bred Valbenny, fourth under top weight of 123 pounds when Solis moved her to the clear at the head of the stretch, easily collared the leaders in the final furlong to win by a widening 1 3/4 lengths to establish herself as a leading contender for the $750,000 American Oaks (gr. IT) on July 7. She covered 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:48.17 while paying $4, $2.40 and $2.10.
Super Freaky ($3, $2.40), engaged in a pace duel with Passified through splits of :24 1/5, :48 4/5 and 1:12 3/5, held on for second with Jon Court aboard by a head over Mystic Soul ($3.20) and Kyle Kaenel. Passified wound up fourth, followed by Le Cirque, Round Trip and Eclisse. Ainamaa scratched.
Valbenny, a daughter of Val Royal--Dark Indian (Indian Ridge) trained by Paddy Gallagher, is unbeaten at Hollywood Park. She won the Miesque (gr. IIIT) while making her North American debut at Hollywood in November and captured the Senorita (gr. IIIT) in her previous start May 12. She has won four of five starts in the U.S.
”She won a lot easier today,” Solis said. “She is getting stronger all the time. I told Paddy in the paddock she looked like a million dollars. I was hoping for some room and I thought it would develop because I saw a few horses getting tired and some of them were lugging out.”
Valbenny, a winner of five of seven races lifetime after beginning her career in Great Britain for trainer Alan Swinbank, boosted her earnings to $269,653 with the winner’s check of $82,650.
“I thought Alex did a great job, when he got her out she ran strong right down to the wire,” Gallagher said. “She was acting up a bit at the gate, sometimes she wants to get her way. It was a tightly run race, all the jockeys were doing the right thing, but Alex did his job and got her to the finish line. Hopefully we will see about the American Oaks in a month or so.”
O’Neill, who saddled two other winners earlier on the card, gave Valbenny a huge endorsement in recapping the effort by Super Freaky.
“I thought (Super Freaky) ran dynamite,” he said. “That Valbenny is just a freak. When she zigs, we need to zag. We’ll probably end up running against her in our next race, but ideally we’d stay away from her and we can win.”
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