Romacaca was back in familiar surroundings after capturing the $100,000 South Beach Stakes (VIDEO) Dec. 9, but she wouldn't have been in the Gulfstream Park winner's circle had owner Frank Calabrese received his price at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November Sale.
The 6-year-old mare was returned to trainer Danny Miller's stable when her reserve price wasn't met during bidding Nov. 5, and her connections are only too happy to keep getting their pictures taken with her.
"She's just a nice mare. All you have to do is take good care of her and keep her healthy," Miller said. "She's a nice mare. She likes to run."
Romacaca's victory was her fifth in 10 starts at Gulfstream and her 16th from 32 trips to post during her career. Favored at 3-1, the daughter of Running Stag proved to be the same old Romacaca despite returning from a two-month layoff, dropping back in distance to 7 1/2 furlongs, and carrying top weight of 123 pounds.
"I think it's easier on her to run her longer. She can relax more, but she ran really well today," Miller said. "She's been 60 days between races and had gone down to the sale. I lost some training time with her when she was down at the sale."
Although she usually sets or closely attends the early pace at longer distances, Romacaca sat fifth early in the South Beach while rating kindly for jockey Francisco Torres. Despite racing four wide around the turn into the stretch, she made the lead in deep stretch while holding off late-charging Chokurei by a neck.
"She did everything within herself and all I did was try to keep her out of trouble. She worked so well here the other morning so I was very excited to ride her today," said Torres, a newcomer to Gulfstream this winter who won with both of his mounts Sunday. "Going seven-eighths of a mile, you'll see more horses showing a little more tactical speed than you would going a mile-and-a-sixteenth and a mile-and-an-eighth, so I let her fall out of there and place herself where she was comfortable. When it was time to call on her she quickened up and prevailed."
Irish-bred Chokurei, ridden by Joe Bravo, finished three-quarters of a length ahead of Hooh Why and Ron Allen Jr. Romacaca ran 7 1/2 furlongs on turf in 1:29.37 while pushing her bankroll to $926,992.
Frontside set the pace, carving an opening quarter mile in :23.74 and the half mile in :46.66. She continued to lead past mid-stretch but tired to finish eighth.
Romacaca, a Florida-bred mare out of Romaca, by Kris S., was claimed by Calabrese, the leading owner at Gulfstream for three years running, for $25,000 locally on April 14, 2009. She has won 10 stakes, including the 2011 Taylor Made Matchmaker (gr. III) at Monmouth Park and the 2012 Modesty (gr. III) at Arlington Park. In her most recent start, she captured the Indian Maid Handicap at Hawthorne Oct. 6.
Miller, who had trained Romacaca during her 3-year-old season, was reunited with her last summer.
"We love her. We loved her when we had her before," Miller said. "She's just such a professional. She's such a delight to have in the stable. We just love her."