Walter New's homebred Flying Circle launched a furious rally in the stretch to finish a half-length in front, and then survived an inquiry by stewards to win the $111,100 Mariah's Storm Stakes, a five-furlong event for fillies and mares, 3-years-old and up, on the turf Nov. 18 at Churchill Downs.
A 5-year-old daughter of Pembroke, Flying Circle covered the distance on firm turf in :57.43 under Manny Aguilar and paid $8.40, $3.80, and $2.40. Taletobetold, in tight quarters with Julien Leparoux aboard, got up for second. Smitty’s Sunshine, the favorite who opened a clear lead in the stretch, gave way in the final yards to finish third.
Though she finished in front, Flying Circle had to withstand a steward’s inquiry, along with an objection lodged by Leparoux, as several horses finished in tight quarters near the finish line. Flying Circle appeared to lug in near the wire after launching a wide bid at the top of the stretch, but the stewards ruled the winner’s run did not impede the other horses and let the order of finish stand.
“I asked her at the three-sixteenths pole and she responded,” said Aguilar, who won the Mariah’s Storm in his first ride at Churchill. “I was surprised at the objection because the horse on the inside of me (Smitty’s Sunshine) was getting closer and closer to me, and when I heard the horse coming behind me, I pulled the right rein (to straighten her out)."
Said Leparoux : “It was pretty close to the wire for the stewards to make any change, but we’ve got to try – you never know. She always tries, and I think today she was kind of the best, but we needed a little more luck.”
Flying Circle, who is based at Calder Race Course for trainer David Fawkes, evened a growing rivalry with the Louisiana-based Smitty’s Sunshine, as each horse has now won twice in their four meetings in 2007. The stretch-running mare won for the second time in 10 races in 2007 and improved her career record to 7-5-4 in 23 races with earnings of $463,763.
"When I saw the objection, I thought ‘Oh, no!' " Fawkes said. "We will go back to Florida now and then probably maybe Gulfstream, maybe if there is something at the end of Calder. She is great to ship. So if there is something at Tampa or maybe even the Fair Grounds, she’s a super shipper.”
Flying Circle is out of Apalachee mare Quest for Round.