David Blethen's Withgreatpleasure grabbed the lead turning for home and held on for a three-quarter-length upset victory April 6 in the Ruffian Handicap (gr. II) to kick off the stakes action on Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) day at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The 5-year-old chestnut daughter of Hold That Tiger covered the mile trip in 1:36.52 over a fast track under 114 pounds (VIDEO).
The winner of the $150,000 event for fillies and mares, bred in Kentucky by Valerie and David Blethen, was ridden by John Velazquez and was a 14-1 shot in the six-horse field. The 4-5 favorite and 117-pound highweight My Wandy's Girl put in a mild rally for second, finishing 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Twice the Lady and Centrique, who finished noses apart for third.
Funnys Approval and Centrique shot out early in the opening strides but it was Funnys Approval who sprinted for a clear early lead and set super-quick splits of :22.79 for the opening quarter and :45.81 for the half-mile.
The field bunched headed into the turn and as they rounded the bend after six furlongs in 1:10.77, Velazquez and Withgreatpleasure skimmed the fence and quickly went to the front while taking the shortest way around. She opened up on the field by two lengths mid-stretch, though the closing quarter of :25 3/5 suggests the winner tired down the lane while able to get the win.
"(Funnys Approval) was in the three path the whole way. I just waited and waited. Past the three-eighths pole, it was my chance to get her there," Velazquez said. "I got there maybe a little too soon, but I got there, anyway. I had to take the chance when it was open. I didn't want to wait and have the hole close on me, so I took the chance to move her there, and she lasted.
"She was going well the whole way to the sixteenth pole. She started getting tired the last 20 yards, but I had to make the early move."
The winner, trained by David Nunn, returned $30.60, $7.60, and $2.90. My Wandy's Girl paid $2.70 and $2.10. Twice the Lady returned $2.40 to show. The $11-6 exacta paid $38.75 and the $1 trifecta of 1-6-4 paid $94. Funnys Approval finished fifth and Onepointhreekarats ran sixth.
"She was my first stakes winner, now she's my first graded stakes winner," Nunn said of the winner. "She's been second in a grade II, third in a grade II, she's done everything. She was due to finally get a trip and win. Johnny V knows Aqueduct, and that made a difference today.
"She has taken me to places I have never been. I cannot say enough about her. I blew her out three-eighths of a mile the other day and I let her make the call. It was very impressive. I was going to go to Charles Town for a race on (April) 20th. I had no intention of running here."
The Ruffian winner is out of the New York-bred stakes-placed Doubleyourpleasure (by Double Negative), who was bred by David Blethen and Philip Dukes. Withgreatpleasure is a half sister to West Coast stakes winner Sea of Pleasure, who set a track record at Santa Anita Park in 2007.
It was the second stakes score and first graded win for Withgreatpleasure in 31 starts. Last summer she won the Stonewall Farm Ocala Unbridled Belle Stakes at Delaware Park.
This year Withgreatpleasure ran second to Twice the Lady in the Affectionately Stakes, then was third behind Funnys Approval and My Wandy's Girl in the seven-furlong Barbara Fritchie Handicap (gr. II) at Laurel Park. She ran sixth in the Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) in early March, then won a handicap race March 19 at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races prior to the Ruffian.
In 2011 Withgreatpleasure was second to Juanita in the Indiana Oaks (gr. II) and ran third in the Monmouth Oaks (gr. III).