Burmilla spotted class and experience to her four rivals, but the lightly-raced 4-year-old daughter of Storm Cat was anything but intimidated as she pulled away down the stretch for a two-and-three-quarters-length upset victory in the $150,000 Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) at Saratoga Aug. 3.
Trained by Eoin Harty, Burmilla came into the feature race with only three lifetime starts (all wins) and no stakes efforts. That was in sharp contrast to her main rivals, favorite Miss Macy Sue, who had won four consecutive stakes, and Indian Flare, whose last seven tries were in stakes competitions, four of them victories. Kentucky-bred Burmilla broke sharply and went gate-to-wire in convincing fashion under jockey Rafael Bejarano, running the six-furlong sprint in 1:09.51 on a fast main track.
“I let him go the first couple of jumps, and when everyone else let me get the lead, he started to settle and stayed more relaxed," said Bejarano. "When I saw the other horse (G City Gal) following me, I knew I was going to have a good race."
Going off as the fourth choice, Burmilla paid $13.80 to win. Runner-up Indian Flare produced a $45.60 exacta (2-5), with G City Gal finishing third to fill out a $128.50 trifecta (2-5-3).
As she did in her allowance win at Belmont June 28, Burmilla came out of gate firing, taking the lead through a rather slow 23.03 quarter-mile. Owned by Darley Stable, she confidently continued the pace past the half-mile marker and had all four rivals looking up as they turned for home. With urging from Bejarano, the chestnut filly easily pulled away in the final strides.
"You never think you are going to get that (first quarter-mile in :23.03), especially going three-quarters," said Harty. "I think everybody was anticipating a major speed duel. If it was always that easy, it would be nice."
Miss Macy Sue was a well-beaten fourth.
“Nothing went right," said Miss Macy Sue's trainer, Kelly Von Hemel. "She is a better filly than what she showed. She broke a little slower today, and they just covered her up."