Favored Hilda's Passion took the race right to her five rivals in winning Gulfstream Park's $150,000 Hurricane Bertie Stakes (gr. III), leading at every call en route to a 2 1/2-length triumph (VIDEO).
Winner of Keeneland's Raven Run Stakes (gr. II) to conclude her 3-year-old campaign last October, Hilda's Passion ran second as the favorite by a neck to Tar Heel Mom in the Sugar Swirl Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Jan. 15. But she proved too tough this time for her usually consistent rival.
Ridden once again by Javier Castellano for trainer Todd Pletcher, Hilda's Passion showed speed from the rail to open up a clear lead while completing the first quarter-mile in a quick :22.08 and the half-mile in :44.62. Tar Heel Mom, moving up on the outside for Alan Garcia, drew close leaving the quarter pole but couldn't sustain her bid through the stretch and faded to fourth.
Hilda's Passion was four lengths clear at the furlong pole and was kept to the task all the way to the wire. The final time for the 6 1/2-furlong test for older fillies and mares was a sharp 1:15.79.
"She broke really sharp and I didn’t want to take her speed away from her," Castellano said. "She was really good today. She felt so good about herself and came out wanting to run.”
Ms Vanenzza, ridden by Rajiv Maragh, closed best of the remaining rivals to be second, six lengths in front of third-place finisher North Rodeo and Eibar Coa.
Owned by Starlight Partners and C. E. Glasscock, Hilda's Passion earned her fifth win in nine starts and increased her earnings to $340,256. Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Kuster bred the bay daughter of Canadian Frontier --Executricker, by El Prado in Kentucky.
“With the one post we felt there wasn’t much option but to go for the lead," said Pletcher, who took over conditioning Hilda's Passion last summer and has now won three stakes with her. "She has the speed and was able to go on from there. Last time, breaking from the outside, we tried a little something different and it kind of backfired a little.
"If everything goes all right, she’ll come back in the seven-eighths race (Inside Information Stakes, gr. II, March 19),” Pletcher added.
Carrying co-top weight of 123 pounds, Hilda's Passion paid $4.80, $3.20, and $3.40 as the 7-5 choice. Ms Vanenzza, third in the Sugar Swirl in her last start for trainer Juan Vazquez, returned $6 and $5 and rounded out a $22.60 exacta. North Rodeo paid $9.60 to show.
Tar Heel Mom was another 3 3/4 lengths back in fourth, just the fifth time in her 23-race career that she failed to finish in the money. She was followed by In Perpetuity and grade II winner My Jen, who failed to fire in her first start since finishing last in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I). Jehan scratched.