Diamondrella and jockey Rajiv Maragh thundered down the stretch to overpower last year’s champion turf filly, Forever Together, to win the $400,000 Just a Game Stakes (gr.IT) (VIDEO) at Belmont Park June 6.
Castletop Stable’s Diamondrella won the one-mile Just a Game by 1 3/4 lengths over 7-10 favorite Forever Together, last year’s Emirates Airlines Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr.IT) winner and champion turf female. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to My Princess Jess in third.
Trained by Angel Penna Jr., Diamondrella won her sixth consecutive start and became a graded stakes winner in her first try with her Just a Game win. She has won five of 10 starts on the Belmont turf.
“The only thing I really panicked about was when it started raining, and raining, and raining (on Friday),” said Penna. “Then there was the matter of distance. But, when you have a good horse, it makes it easy, and she’s a very good horse. Plus, she was getting five pounds from Forever Together.
"The other filly is a champion -- a big, huge horse and five pounds on soft turf can make a difference. Now, after this race, I know my filly likes soft turf. As for what’s next, I’ll ask Rajiv what he thinks. It’s great we might have more on the horizon (than sprints). The Breeders’ Cup is an awfully long way away – we’ll look at whatever is next, and take it from there.”
Forever Together and jockey Julien Leparoux looked poised for victory when they took the inside path in the stretch. With a dramatic move, Forever Together came to challenge pacesetter Raw Silk for the lead. But Diamondrella, who raced in seventh and last position for six furlongs, was gobbling up ground down the middle of the Widener Turf and flew by the favorite on the outside leaving the eighth pole.
“The gates opened and she broke sharp,” Maragh said. I didn’t want her to run up early, so I kind of took hold of her right away. The pace slowed down more than I was hoping it would, but she was comfortable being in the back of the pack because there was nobody really chasing behind her, so she got real comfortable and got happy. And, she’s an awesome filly, so once she does that she’s going to finish all the time. She’s honest, she’s always consistent, so I knew I knew I was going to get a good run from her and it was good enough.”
Run over a course labeled as yielding, the final time was 1:36.49. Raw Silk, while pressed by Captain’s Lover, carved out fractions of :23.85, :47.88, and 1:12.35.
Diamondrella, a 5-year-old daughter of Rock of Gibraltar, was bred in Great Britain by William S. Farish. Castletop Stable, the nom-de-course of husband and wife Morton and Bobby Topfer, purchased the mare as a yearling at Keeneland’s September sale for $185,000.
Forever Together, who finished third in this race last year en route to the female turf championship, saw a three-race winning streak halted.
“Diamondrella kind of got the first run on us,” said trainer Jonathan Sheppard. “It took my horse a little while to get running room. Considering she was giving weight and running not under ideal conditions for her, she was by no means disgraced. I was quite worried about the soft turf. There are all sorts of variations of soft, yielding, and so on. But, she’d been training for this and I thought let the chips fall where they may.”
The victory, worth $240,000, increased Diamondrella's earnings to $538,576. She owns a 7-2-1 overall record in 15 starts.
The winner paid $21.20, $5.90 and $3.40. Forever Together returned $2.60 and $2.10. My Princess Jess was $3 to show.
Carribean Sunset, Captain’s Lover, Raw Silk and Modern Look followed. I Lost My Choo was scratched.