Royale Michele came from off the pace to win the $150,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) Feb. 14 at Laurel Park, holding sway over unlucky favorite Seventh Street for her first graded victory.
The 10-1 upsetter shipped from Mountaineer Park for her fourth consecutive win by 1 3/4 lengths over Seventh Street. The 9-10 favorite reared at the start of the seven-furlong race and nearly unseated her rider while spotting the field 12 lengths in the opening quarter mile.
Fascinatin' Rhythm overtook pacesetter By the Light in deep stretch for third. The final time was a solid 1:23.33 on a track rated fast.
Geovany Garcia drove Sam B. Pollock's homebred Royale Michele to victory with a firm ride. Trained by Matthew Kintz, the 4-year-old daughter of Elusive Quality was coming off a three-length win in the New Year's Eve Stakes at Mountaineer Dec. 30.
“I was really happy with her work over here with the track," said Kintz. "She settled in nice. I’m still real glad I came over early. Geovany rode her race as we discussed it. I thought the race might unfold that way and she ran a phenomenal race.”
By the Light, under pressure from Access Fee, held the lead while clicking off fractions of :23.45 and :46.33 for the half-mile as Seventh Street, expected to show the way, lagged well behind in the field of seven. Access Fee bid on the turn to get a head in front, but By the Light, ridden by Luis Garcia, responded along the inside and took command in upper stretch. Royale Michele, chasing the pace for the first four furlongs, swung wide at the top of the lane and swept past the tiring By the Light approaching the sixteenth pole.
Royale Michele proved best under brisk urging as Seventh Street made a fairly remarkable recovery to gain the runner-up spot while rallying wide under Rajiv Maragh by 1 3/4 lengths.
“She’s a nice horse,” said Geovany Garcia, the brother of Luis Garcia, after his first stakes win. “I got behind three horses and just came on a little bit between the quarter pole and the wire and she gave me everything. It is unbelievable.”
Darley's Seventh Street, seeking her first stakes victory, had won her prior three races, all at Aqueduct, by a combined margin of 16 3/4 lengths.
“It was a nightmare break,” Maragh said of the runner-up. “She was ready, but just as the latch was beginning to be sprung, she went up in the air on all four legs and it felt like we were 10 feet in the air. It was so remarkable for her to come (back) in the race and do what she did. In my eyes we were 10 lengths the best.”
Fascinatin' Rhythm, with Mario Pino aboard, ran on late for third, a half-length better than By the Light. Now It Begins, Access Fee, and Dream Rush followed. A Rose for You scratched.
This was the final race for Dream Rush, a multiple grade I winner owned by Minor Stables. The daughter of Wild Rush will be shipped to Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky to be bred to A.P. Indy.
“She broke real well and she sat right off the pace as we wanted, but when it came time to run, it was just nothing,” said jockey Jean-Luc Samyn. Five-year-old Dream Rush, winner of both the Prioress (gr. I) and Test (gr. I) Stakes in 2007, retires with eight wins in 16 starts and earnings of $779,364.
Previously trained by Todd Pletcher, Royale Michele is unbeaten in four starts since joining Kintz's stable at Mountaineer. The lightly raced filly now won five of her eight starts, and the $90,000 winning Fritchie purse nearly doubled the bay filly's earnings to $182,935.
The Kentucky homebred is out of Michele Royale, by Groovy.
Royale Michelle paid $22.20, $7, and $6 while topping a $2 exacta worth $52.20. Seventh Street, a 4-year-old daughter of Street Cry from the barn of Kiaran McLaughlin, returned $2.80 and $2.40. Hometown hope Fascinatin' Rhythm, from the barn of Richard Small, was $4.40 to show.