Nahrain edged Zagora (Fr) and 2-1 favorite Dream Peace in a blanket finish to the $400,000 Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes (gr. IT) Sept. 29 at Belmont Park (VIDEO).
Great Britain-bred Nahrain won by a half-length. Zagora pipped 2-1 favorite Dream Peace by a nose, who had a half-length on I'm a Dreamer (Ire).
The 4-year-old daughter of Selkirk survived an inquiry after covering the 1 1/4 miles over a yielding inner turf course in 2:05.56.
The winner, owned by Sheikh Ahmed al Maktoum's Darley Stable and trained by Roger Varian, was ridden by John Velazquez. With the victory, Nahrain surpassed $1 million in career earnings.
Based in Europe, Nahrain was making her second start in the United States. Last year she ran second as a 5-2 shot in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs. She came to the Flower Bowl off a third-place finish in the Irresistible Jewel Blandford Stakes (Ire-II) at the same 10 furlongs at the Curragh.
"She showed us in her last start when she was third at the Curragh that she was coming back to herself," said Varian. "Her first two runs in the summer, the level of form she showed was incomparable to the high level of form she showed last year, so when we went to Ireland we were just hoping she was going to show us something. It was her first race this year where she finished strongly to the line and showed she was on her way back.
"We’re in (the Breeders’ Cup) now, aren’t we? We were second last year. From when she was second last year we were keen to have another toot at it this year. She’s shown up today, hasn’t she?”
The Flower Bowl is a "Win and You're In" event for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Tur Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park.
Sitting mid-pack early while well off the hedge, Nahrain tracked the soft pace set by Hit It Rich, who was gently pressed by Hessonite and Halo Dolly through early fractions of :25.33, :51.73, and 1:17.43. As the real running began, Halo Dolly pressed Hit it Rich and Zagora went for the leaders after a mile in 1:41.67. I’m a Dreamer rallied up the rail as Nahrain advanced between Zagora and Dream Peace to get the win.
"We had a great trip," said Velazquez, who won the grade I Vosburgh Invitational Stakes earlier with The Lumber Guy, and later won the grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational with Point of Entry. “We got a really nice position in the first part of the race and then we got hung out a little bit wide on the first turn, but I didn’t want to take too much hold of her. We were going pretty slow and I didn’t want to take away what she was doing easy. We got to the three-eighths pole and she was going easy, then I had to ride her really hard. The other horse (Dream Peace) came to her outside, then she started to run.
On the stewards’ inquiry involving the bumping on the turn for home: "I was already there," Velazquez said. "Here comes Julien (Leparoux aboard Dream Peace) and he probably thought I was going to wheel out. I never wheeled out, got into the clear, and he probably wanted to push me in, and it turned my horse sideways. He probably wanted to hold me in there."
"I thought both horses ran well," said trainer Chad Brown of his two entrants, Zagora and Dream Peace. "By no fault of Ramon (Dominguez) – it was such slow pace – Zagora inherited the lead, and had to go on. I don’t know if she really saw the winner coming or not. I thought she ran very well. Dream Peace had a rough trip; she was a little far back on a slow pace, had to go widest of all. She got bumped turning for home and hung a bit down the lane, so it wasn’t an ideal trip for her."
Nahrain, bred in England by Darley and out of the Generous mare Bahr, paid $12, $7.90, and $4.30. Zagora returned $4.20 and $3.10. Dream Peace paid $2.80.
The victory, worth $360,000, boosted Nahrain's earnings to $1,041,961. The chestnut filly has won five of nine lifetime starts with one second and one third.
I'm A Dreamer was followed by Hessonite, Bizzy Caroline, Hit It Rich, and Halo Dolly.