J'ray Strides Away in Matchmaker Stretch
The 5-year-old New York-bred mare notched her third grade III victory for owner and breeder Lawrence Goichman and conditioner Todd Pletcher. J'ray completed the the 1 1/8-mile test for fillies and mares in an excellent time of 1:46.39 over firm going. Overlooked in the evenly matched nine-horse field, J'ray went off at odds of 5-1.
The Taylor Made Matchmaker was one of three graded stakes on a Monmouth Park Haskell program that included seven stakes overall.
J'ray was held up at the rear of the pack for much of the journey as front-running Eclisse provided a good pace (:24, :47 3/5, 1:12 2/5) while leading her rivals all the way into the far turn. After moving into position around the turn while racing off the rail, Bravo angled J'ray to the far outside for the drive and the daughter of Distant View responded with a strong kick for home.
She swept past favored Paris Winds to get the lead inside the furlong pole and opened up daylight. J'ray finished 1 3/4 lengths in front of Dyna's Lassie, who edged Cozzi Capital by a neck for the runner-up slot.
“This filly ran awesome today,” Bravo said. “At the three-eighths pole I started to ask her, and she picked it up unbelievably. She ran by those horses like they were fence posts.”
The Irish-bred Paris Winds, the 2-1 choice ridden by Kent Desormeaux, finished fourth after making an early move to get the lead.
J'ray snapped a five-race losing streak since she won the My Charmer Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Calder Race Course Dec. 1. In her most recent race, the chestnut faded to fifth after making a mild bid on the outside in the All Along Breeders' Cup (gr. IIIT) at Colonial June 21. J'ray improved her career mark to 8-6-1 in 22 starts with earnings of $686,889. All but two of J'ray's races have been on grass courses.
J'ray, who is out of the Darshaan mare Bubbling Heights, carried 116 pounds to victory and paid $12.80, $5.80 and $3.80. Dyna's Love, who has run first or second in her last seven starts for trainer Douglas Fout, returned $7.40 and $5.20 with Carlos Marquez Jr. aboard. The $2 exacta was worth $100 even. Cozzi Capital, ridden by Daniel Coa, was $13.60 to show.
Paris Winds, group III place in Ireland and seeking her first stakes win in the U.S. for trainer Bill Mott, was one length farther behind in fourth. She was followed by second choice Social Queen, Eclisse and Waquoit's Love. Dancing Band and Prop Me Up finished in a dead heat for eighth.
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