Team Valor International’s Captain's Lover made her dirt debut a winning one, as she took over at the quarter-pole and sloshed her way to a seven-length victory in the $200,000 Taylor Made Matchmaker (VIDEO) Aug. 2 at Monmouth Park.
The Matchmaker was taken off the turf because of heavy rain in New Jersey earlier in the day, leaving the 1 1/8-mile event with just five starters on the sloppy main track. Nine horses were originally entered. Originally carded as a grade III event, the Matchmaker loses its graded status pending a final decision by the American Graded Stakes Committee.
A 5-year-old South African-bred mare, Captain’s Lover was making just her third start on American soil. A group I winner in South Africa and a group III winner in France, this was her first triumph in North America. Todd Pletcher is the winning trainer.
Under the handling of John Velazquez, Captain’s Lover raced third in the early stages of the Matchmaker while Meadow Saffron set the pace and American Border stalked the leader. Opening fractions were a moderate :23.64 and :48.16.
American Border took over just after a half-mile under Elvis Trujillo and ran six furlongs in 1:12.16. But Captain’s Lover came up to challenge from her outside around the far turn and drew even just before reaching the quarter-pole. The daughter of Captain Al began to edge clear at the three-sixteenths pole and went unchallenged in the stretch.
The final time on the sloppy sealed track was 1:51.60. Princess Haya rallied to get second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of American Border.
Bred by W.J. Engelbrecht and out of the Badger Land mare Sunshine Lover, Captain’s Lover improved to 7-1-2 from 12 lifetime starts and upped her earnings to $311,351. The dark bay mare’s last win came in September of 2008 when taking the Prix du Pin (Fr-III) at Longchamp for trainer Andre Fabre. She made her U.S. debut for Pletcher June 6 at Belmont in the grade I Just a Game and finished fifth. Most recently, she was third to American Border in the July 3 Miss Liberty Stakes on the Monmouth grass.
"Any time you have a horse that has never run on the main track before, you’re a little nervous,” Pletcher said. "She’s trained so good over it in the morning that we knew if the opportunity arose where she could race on it, we would do it. That opportunity came today, and she ran very well."
Sent off as the slight favorite, Captain’s Lover paid $7, $3.60 and $2.20. The exacta (4-1) returned $29.20 and the $1 trifecta (4-1-3) was $38.30.
Them There Eyes was fourth, followed by Meadow Saffron. Ariege, Closeout, Rutherienne and Social Queen were all scratched.
Peter Vegsos War Monger was in last place after a half-mile, but made a decisive move along the far turn and rallied to take the $100,000 Rutgers University Stakes by a length-and-a-half on the Monmouth Park turf Oct. 24.