Swift Temper dictated the pace for jockey Alan Garcia and kicked away in the stretch to post a surprisingly easy 2 1/4-length upset in the $1-million Delaware Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) July 19 at Delaware Park.
Garcia put the finishing touches on a great day with the win aboard the 5-year-old daughter of Giant's Causeway . Two races earlier, he won the $150,000 Barbaro Stakes (gr. III) in similar front-running style with Our Edge.
Trained by Dale Romans for owner Mark H. Stanley, Swift Temper landed an automatic berth in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Nov. 6 with her victory in the 1 1/4-mile Delaware Handicap. Thanks to the $600,000 winning purse, she also went over the $1-million mark in career earnings
Icon Project, ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., rallied for second by 1 3/4 lengths over the 11-10 choice Unbridled Belle, with Richard Migliore aboard. It was the second straight year that the millionaire Unbridled Belle ran third in the Delaware Handicap as the favorite. The Todd Pletcher-trained 6-year-old mare won the race in 2007.
The first three finishers were all Taylor Made Yearling Sales graduates.
Let go at odds of 7-1, Swift Temper broke from the far outside but quickly got to the rail. She was in command throughout while milking easy quarter-mile fractions of :24.96, :49.83, and 1:14.79 for the opening six furlongs as Acoma prompted the pace.
Unbridled Belle attempted to overtake her on the outside rounding the final turn as Acoma gave way, but Swift Temper repelled that threat to reestablish command in the lane. Icon Project, rated toward the rear for much of the race, came on in the stretch, but failed to menace the winner, who led by 2 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole and finished in a steady drive. She was timed in 2:03.41.
Romans especially liked the slow early fractions during the race.
"I thought if Unbridled Belle did not go, we would be in front, but I could not figure out what she would do," he said. "We were planning on just getting comfortable wherever we were, but it worked out perfectly for us. When they left us out there two in front going that slow, I knew they were in trouble. I was looking at the fractions and it did not look like at any point anybody wanted to challenge us. I knew if it was going to be a sprint from the quarter pole home, we were going to have plenty left."
Swift Temper won the Sixty Sails Handicap (gr. III) at Hawthorne in April and followed that effort with a pair of grade II placings at Churchill Downs, finishing third in the Louisville Distaff and second in the Fleur de Lis Handicap June 13. The chestnut mare won the Gardenia Handicap (gr. III) at odds of 21-1 at Ellis Park last year.
The Delaware win was her fifth in 27 lifetime starts. She bumped her lifetime earnings to $1,033,346.
Bred in Kentucky by Richard Nip and Omar Trevino, Swift Temper is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Glasgow's Gold.
The fourth choice in the field of six, Swift Temper paid $17, $6, and $3.80. Icon Project, who was coming off a 13 1/4-length romp in the New York Stakes (gr. III) at muddy Belmont Park last month, returned $4.20 and $3.40. Unbridled Belle, who tuned up for this spot with an 11-length romp in Delaware's Obeah Stakes (gr. III), was $2.20 to show.
Unbridled Belle has not been worse than third in eight lifetime starts over the track, winning five times. She was followed by the Peru-bred Morena, Temple Street, and Acoma, who disappointed after winning the Mint Julep Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill in her last start. Livin Lovin scratched.
Pletcher had no excuses for Unbridled Belle.
"She kind of rated in a stalking position and the fractions were moderate early and she just finished evenly," he said.