A change in tactics helped Black Mamba capture the $125,000 Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes (VIDEO) at Keeneland in likely the final start of her career Oct. 25.
The grade I-winning 6-year-old mare, making a stopover on her way to Fasig-Tipton's selected fall mixed sale in Lexington Nov. 10, swept past the pacesetter Tarheel Girl coming into the homestretch of the 1 1/2-mile event over Keeneland's yielding turf course. Under steady handling from jockey Robby Albarado, the favorite held sway when challenged in the lane by Caprice and Ballynoe for a 1 1/2-length triumph over second choice Winter View.
Owned by Double Down Stables, the New Zealand-bred Black Mamba made her first start at Keeneland for Southern California trainer John Sadler in the Dowager, clocking a slow 2:37.07 over the deep going. It was her first win in three tries at the 12-furlong distance.
Black Mamba has generally raced from far off the pace in her Southern California efforts, but Albarado had a different plan. Breaking from the extreme outside in the field of nine, he had the daughter of Black Minnaloushe placed second, just off Tarheel Girl's outside flank, when the pace came up exceedingly slow. Quarter-mile fractions were :27.21, :54.31 and 1:19.98, with the mile completed in 1:47.25. Black Mamba turned up the pressure rounding the final turn and took control soon after hitting the stretch.
Caprice tried to stick to Black Mamba in upper stretch, but gave way to Ballynoe, who drew to within nearly a length for James Graham before Black Mamba inched away again to a two-length advantage with a furlong to run. Winter View, with Julien Leparoux aboard, arrived too late to threaten the winner while claiming second by a nose over Ballynoe. Caprice tired and settled for fourth, nearly six lengths further back.
“With this pedestrian pace, being as good of a quality filly as she is, I figured if I could kick on turning for home and spread the race out a little bit, she’d come nicely,” said Albarado, who rode four winners on the card. “She did.”
Winner of the 2008 John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT), Black Mamba notched her third win in seven tries this year. She captured the Beverly Hills Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park June 28. The bay mare is to be sold as a breeding or racing prospect at Fasig-Tipton, her connections confirmed after the race.
Keltern Stud in New Zealand bred the winner, who is out of the Grosvenor mare Sneetch. If she doesn't race again, Black Mamba goes out with a 7-7-4 career mark in 30 starts with earnings of $980,763.
The winner carried top weight of 125 pounds and paid $5.20, $3 and $2.40. Augustin Stable's Winter View, a two-time grade III winner for trainer Jonathan Sheppard, returned $3.60 and $2.40 and rounded out a $16.20 exacta. Ballynoe was $3.20 to show.
Caprice was followed by Soul of Nataka, Kite Seeker, Super Poni, Tarheel Girl and French Kiss. Sweet and Flawless and Lemonette scratched.