Coffee Clique dug in along the hedge to outduel 36-1 longshot Dame Marie by a half-length to win the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (gr. IIT) May 3 at Churchill Downs (VIDEO).
The $336,900 race was the first of six graded events on the day culminating with the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
The winner, bred by Mrs. Jerry Amerman and owned by Amerman Racing Stables, is trained by Brian Lynch. Coffee Clique covered the mile in 1:34.66 over firm ground under jockey Javier Castellano.
I'm Already Sexy broke sharply under Florent Geroux and was hustled to the front, quickly opening up a sizable three-length lead in the opening half mile. The opening quarter mile went in :24 as Tapicat, Effie Trinket, and Coffee Clique sat in a bunch in the second flight. The second quarter went in a quicker :22.98 as I'm Already Sexy opened up on the field down the backstretch.
The horses bunched coming out of the turn after six furlongs in 1:10.48 as Effie Trinket hit the front and was quickly met by Dame Marie to her outside. Coffee Clique, rallying from fifth at the quarter pole, came in toward the inside under Javier Castellano to join the mix. In the final yards Coffee Clique and Dame Marie separated themselves from the group.
"I thought she settled lovely," Lynch said. "It was a good decision on the first turn to take back a bit. He (Castellano) said she was game down on the inside the last part of it and he didn't really have to get after her. He could feel she was getting into a rhythm."
It was 1 3/4 lengths back to New York-bred Effie Trinket in third. She topped Ready Signal by a neck, with 7-5 favorite Centre Court finishing a non-threatening fifth following a wide trip. Then came I'm Already Sexy, Miz Ida, Tapicat, and Absolute Crackers. Absolute Crackers, with Alan Garcia up, was fractious and broke through the gate prior to the start of the race.
Coffee Clique paid $13.80, $8.80, and $5.80. Dame Marie paid $31.60 and $13.40. Effie Trinket paid $5.40 to show. The $2 exacta (2-4) returned $449.
"I wanted to just stay off the pace a little bit," said Castellano, who rode Coffee Clique once before. "My horse is very brave. Turning for home, she split horses and kept on the rail. I saved all the ground. The most important thing on the grass is to save some ground and I think it paid off today."
A 4-year-old filly by Medaglia d'Oro , the Distaff Turf Mile winner is out of the Royal Academy mare Miss Chapin. The dam, a winner of her lone start, was bred and raced by the Amermans. Miss Chapin, out of the French-bred stakes winner Society Dream whom the Amermans acquired in the late 1990s, delivered a filly by Mizzen Mast April 16.
A winner of a $100,000 allowance/optional claiming race going a mile on the turf March 26 at Gulfstream Park in her 2014 bow, Coffee Clique raced in four graded stakes last year. She ran fourth in the Herecomesthebride Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream last March, then ran in three graded races at Woodbine. She won the Selene Stakes (Can-III) on Polytrack and ran fourth in the Dance Smartly Stakes (Can-IIT) and third in the Ontario Colleen Stakes (Can-IIIT) on turf.
"We'll be taking her up to Canada this summer for the grass program up there," Lynch said. "This spring she has really come to herself."
Coffee Clique has now won five times in 10 starts with one second and one third. The $200,523 first prize boosts her career earnings to $417,488.