Preferential, a disappointment for Juddmonte Farms since her arrival in the United States this spring, registered her first stateside victory in the $125,000 Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes (VIDEO) Oct. 20 on the Keeneland turf.
In spite of a ground-saving trip as the slight 3-1 favorite in the field of 10 older fillies and mares going 1 1/2 miles, the victory remained in doubt until the final strides as jockey Leandro Goncalves was forced to wait for room on Preferential. Finally able to get some space between the leading Angel Terrace and a weakening Valiant Girl, the Great Britain-bred filly burst through in deep stretch, then held off the oncoming Left a Message by half a length.
After three indifferent starts in the U.S. this season for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, 4-year-old Preferential woke up in her most recent try, the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon Sept. 7, when she was second by a neck.
"I think it has been a little bit of a learning process for us, understanding what she really wants to do," said Kenny McCarthy, assistant to Mott. "From her last race, we learned an awful lot. Leandro (Goncalves) really fit her well, and we felt pretty confident coming in here today. The trip was a little rough the whole way around, but at the end when he called on her she really answered."
Preferential, who was timed in 2:33.11 on a Keeneland grass course labeled firm, raced previously in France for trainer Christiane Head-Maarek, winning twice in nine starts. In her only prior outing at 12 furlongs, she posted a two-length victory in a minor stakes at Chantilly in September 2012.
Cash for Clunkers, leaving from the rail, led the Dowager for the first half mile (:25.74, :51.39) and dropped out quickly as Valiant Girl gained a narrow advantage on the outside with a half-mile to run, having completed the mile in 1:42.58. Valiant Girl led Angel Terrace by half a length at the quarter pole as Preferential, who had backed up in traffic heading into the final turn, tugged Goncalves eagerly along in third with Janicellaine on her outside.
In upper stretch, Preferential tried to move inside Valiant Girl but could not get through. With the leaders then bunching up in the homestretch, Preferential eventually found room and proved best under urging from Goncalves.
"It was hard," Goncalves said of his trip. "I had to stalk the whole way, couldn't get through. I didn't have anywhere to go, so I just had to wait and hope for the best and try to get lucky. I did today."
Left a Message, who was gaining on the winner from the far outside for Robby Albarado, was two lengths clear of Angel Terrace and Rosie Napravnik, who held third by a head over the fast-closing Beijoca.
Bred by Millsec Limited, Preferential is a 4-year-old daughter of Dansili out of the Diesis mare Jolie Etoile. She hiked her bankroll to $188,079 with a record of 4-2-1 in 14 races. It was the second victory in the race for Mott, who saddled Briviesca to win the 2005 renewal.
Under equal weights of 121 pounds, Preferential paid $8, $4.60, and $3.60. Left a Message returned $4.80 and $3.80 and completed a $42.60 exacta. Angel Terrace paid $4 to show.
In the ninth and final race on Sunday’s card, owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey earned a record 13th victory of the fall meet with their homebred Captain Cook. Javier Castellano rode the 3-year-old Survivalist gelding, who is trained by Wesley Ward, to victory in the maiden-claiming event at six furlongs.