Last year, Musical Romance missed victory by a neck in the Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I). This season, the 2011 Eclipse Award-winning female sprinter would not be denied, holding off a stiff challenge from Nicole H to take the $400,000 six-furlong event July 7 at Calder Casino & Race Course (VIDEO).
Sent off as the even-money favorite in a field of 11 older fillies and mares and given a perfect stalking trip in third along the rail by jockey Juan Leyva, the 5-year-old daughter of Concorde's Tunerated patiently off a pace set by 37-1 shot Golden Mystery. That one led through a quarter in :21.80 and a half in :45.10 and hit the stretch a half-length in front, but Musical Romance was poised to pounce.
"Everything worked out perfect," Levya remarked. "This filly loves being inside; she thrives on that kind of stuff. You don't get a lot of horses that want to be in there like that, and that no matter where you put her, she's going to run. Turning for home, I was waiting in the pocket, waiting for room."
When a gap appeared, Leyva split horses and shifted out into the two path to catch Golden Mystery just inside the eighth pole. Then Nicole H, runner-up in the June 2 Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II) last time out, made a game run off the turn. Those two dueled neck-and-neck down the stretch before Musical Romance surged under the wire with determination, a half-length the victress in a final time of 1:10.92.
"After missing by a head last year, it feels really great right now," Levya said. "That was a really painful loss and this was sweet redemption. I didn't want to move too soon; I saw Nicole H's races in New York and I know she hangs a little. But at the end, Musical Romance just dug in. She's just an awesome horse."
"She's remarkable," said Bill Kaplan, who trains the runner he co-owns with Pinnacle Racing Stables. "She has all the talent in the world and all the soundness in the world, a great combination. If you look at her past performances, she never wins by a lot, but just by what she has to."
Kaplan said Musical Romance's narrow loss to Sassy Image in the 2011 edition of the Princess Rooney was water under the bridge.
"It didn't bother me like it did Juan because he was on the horse, and he did everything right," he said. "I told Juan to forget about it; she ran a great race that day, and had she seen Sassy Image, she would have dug in and did like she did today when holding that other horse off. So there was no vindication for me today. It was just a great race, and we were able to keep her on the road to the Breeders' Cup."
Musical Romance returned $4.20, $2.80, and $2.60, while Nicole H. paid $3.60 and $40 and Nakano brought $8. Flying Tip, Bouquet Booth, Indulgence, Golden Mystery, Leopard Rock, Wild Bout Tiffany, Beloveda, and Spectacular Sky completed the order of finish.
Bred in Florida by Ocala Stud out of the Slew Gin Fizz mare Candlelightdinner, Musical Romance improved her career record to 11-6-7 from 38 starts, with earnings of $1,627,695.
The 2011 Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (gr. I) winner, Musical Romance took the March 17 Inside Information (gr. II) to get her first score of 2012 after running fourth Jan. 28 in the Florida Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint Stakes. The Princess Rooney was her first win since running fourth in the April 12 Vinery Madison Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland and finishing second in the May 5 Humana Distaff Stakes (gr. I).
According to Kaplan, a start in the Aug. 24 Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) could be next for the Calder-based mare en route to the Sept. 8 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (gr. II), all with a plan of returning to the Breeders' Cup in November.