Woman Stakes at Santa Anita was supposed to be a launching pad to the
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint for the unbeaten Winding Way, but instead it
was Ramona Bass, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider's Rumor who might have
punched her ticket to the big dance.
While Rumor brought her A game, along with plenty of spunk, 1-5 favorite Winding Way never made an impact and trailed home last of four in an inauspicious dirt debut.
Lady of Fifty flashed speed and was a length up through an initial quarter in :22 2/5. Rumor, who had been last in the opening strides, moved up aggressively on the backstretch and applied fierce pressure through a half-mile in :46.
After matching strides with Lady of Fifty rounding the far turn, Rumor began to inch away from her down the lane. Then Great Hot, never more than a length back, issued a stiff challenge on the outside.
Rumor responded gamely for Mike Smith, repelling Great Hot by a half-length. Dispatched as the 5-2 second choice, Rumor completed 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17 2/5 on the fast track and paid $7.20 and $5.40. There was no show wagering.
"I just told Mike (Smith) to do what he thought was right," trainer Richard Mandella said. "I told him to do what he wants.
"The Breeders' Cup is a possibility, but with her, you never know which day works," the Hall of Famer added, describing Rumor as a "delicate" type of filly.
"Sometimes she's there, sometimes she isn't, so we'll see how she comes out (of the race)."
"She ran dynamite," fellow Hall of Famer Smith recapped. "Richard just said to let her run her race. He wanted me to let her break and see what she decides, then go from there.
"She broke really kind and I saw the favorite (Winding Way) was going to ease back, so I went ahead and moved her up so I could keep the favorite inside of me. It all worked out great.
"I've seen Garrett (Gomez) win some good ones on her. She always comes back and fights, so I knew she would at least give me something to fight with, and she did."
Lady of Fifty kept on determinedly on the rail and checked in another length away in third. Winding Way steadily lost ground and finished another 6 1/4 lengths behind Lady of Fifty.
The favorite brought a three-for-three mark, but all of those had come on synthetic surfaces. Jockey Rafael Bejarano told trainer Carla Gaines that Winding Way wasn't herself on the dirt.
"Basically he (Bejarano) said he thinks it's the surface," Gaines said of her disappointing showing. "She only ran for about three-eighths of a mile."
"She just didn't fire today," Bejarano summed up.
Rumor's third career stakes victory advanced her line to 11-5-4-1, $294,188. Successful in the C.E.R.F. Stakes at Del Mar in her 2011 finale, the Indian Charlie filly landed the Kalookan Queen Handicap over this track and trip on New Year's Day. Rumor stepped up in class for the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap, but ran a subpar sixth and was discovered to have bled. She returned from a break to finish a close second in the May 6 Time to Leave Stakes at Hollywood Park. After another vacation, Rumor was a troubled third to Winding Way in the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo Handicap at Del Mar August 19.
Bred by Stonerside Stable, Marula Park Stud and Dr. and Mrs. Walter Zent, Rumor commanded $440,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. She is a half-sister to Grade 1 victor Dixie Chatter.
They are both out of the unraced Deputy Minister mare Mini Chat, who is herself a half-sister to Grade 2 heroine Cat Chat. Rumor was capping a big Sunday double for her family, for Cat Chat's daughter In Lingerie rolled in the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland.
Rumor's second dam is champion Phone Chatter, winner of the 1993 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.