(Edited Calder race report)
River’s Prayer ran head and head with Shaggy Mane for the first five furlongs of the $500,000 Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. 1) (VIDEO) before the daughter of Devon Lane assumed command for good in midstretch to garner the victory at Calder Racecourse by a half-length.
Shaggy Mane held second, while G City Gal, who looked to be a closing threat in the stretch, could not muster a sufficient rally and settled for third.
The win, over the good main track, was the second in a row for California shippers and also the second in a row for California-based rider Clinton Potts, who won the Carry Back Stakes (gr. II) aboard Black Seventeen. River’s Prayer, who has now won four consecutive races with the previous three all coming while sprinting on the turf, completed the six furlongs over the good main track in 1:10.66.
River’s Prayer is owned by the partnership of Bantry Farms, Paula Capestro, and Martin Racing Stables LLC. Capestro was also the winning trainer.
River’s Prayer broke on top under Potts, who allowed his mount to settle just off Shaggy Mane after that one had moved through to a slight lead along the inside. From there, the Princess Rooney was a veritable match race, with the other 11 fillies and mares never able to catch either of the top two.
River’s Prayer has now won six stakes races, with four of those coming on the grass --including the Las Cienegas Handicap (gr. IIIT) on April 15 at Santa Anita.
The four-year-old winner paid $24.80, $9.20, and $6.00. Favorite Shaggy Mane returned $4.00 and $3.60, while G City Gal paid $5.60 to show.
Bred by Vessels Stallion Farm, River’s Prayer now has eight wins from 15 starts and her career earnings now total $801,958.
“She shipped well and ate well since she got here, and then she came into the paddock so relaxed, I was almost worried, but she obviously overcame the heat and humidity,” Capestro said. “We bought her privately for $150,000 after she failed to meet her reserve at a Barretts sale. This was her race to step up and see how good she really is, and she came through. It’s the biggest win of my career, and now we can look forward to the Breeders’ Cup (Filly & Mare Sprint).
"She has done her best in the past going seven furlongs, but you saw she was able to shorten up. We always thought her speed figures stacked up well. We’ll take her back to California to the training center at San Luis Rey Downs and give her a little break. This was a hard race, so we’ll see if she can come back in the Rancho Bernardo (Del Mar) or just wait and find a little prep someplace to get ready for the Breeders’ Cup.”
“This filly likes to be right up on it early in the race, but today she let me settle her down the backside,” Potts said. “She seemed to drift a bit around the turn but, when we straightened up in the stretch, she just turned it on.”