Riposte found the yielding turf at Belmont Park to her liking as she rolled to a front-running victory in the $200,000 Sheepshead Bay Stakes (gr. IIT) over a good field for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott May 24 (VIDEO).
A group II winner in England, Juddmonte Farms' 4-year-old Dansili filly broke through with her first North American victory in four starts this season. Out of the Rainbow Quest mare Rainbow Lake, the homebred Riposte is a half sister to $1.9-million earner Powerscourt, winner of the 2004 Tattersalls Gold Cup (Eng-I) and the 2005 Arlington Million (gr. IT).
Joel Rosario was aboard 5-2 shot Riposte for the first time, guiding the bay filly to a 1 3/4-length victory in a time of 2:18.86 for the 1 3/8-mile event on a boggy Widener turf course. The race was originally scheduled for the inner turf.
"I think was just the way the race came up," Mott said of Riposte staking the lead. "I thought (Irish Mission) would show more speed, but the pace didn't really develop."
Breaking form the inside post in a field of six older filly and mares, Riposte took the early lead while racing off the hedge over Fitful Skies, the slight 2-1 favorite. Fitful Skies settled into a tracking spot third toward the inside as Irish Mission moved into second on the outside of Riposte, who was allowed to take the field along in a :51.75 opening half-mile. She maintained a length's advantage through a comfortable six furlongs in 1:17 and a mile in 1:41.53 as second choice Abaco, recovering from a slip at the start, ranged up on the outside.
"There wasn't a lot of speed, and going a mile and three eighths and (with) how the track is, I wanted to get in position, and she was in front," Rosario said. "I just tried to take my time with her and try to go all the way."
Rosario began to urge Riposte approaching the quarter pole and she cornered three or four paths wide off the final bend before inching away in the drive. She reached the eight pole two lengths clear in 2:05.86 and came home in command with a couple of taps of the whip.
Abaco, ridden by John Velazquez, finished willingly but never looked to catch the winner, finishing 3 3/4 lengths clear in second. Irish Mission, who re-rallied for Alex Solis after falling back on the final turn, got up for third by three-quarters of a length over Fitful Skies. Caroline Thomas and Modernstone trailed.
Riposte was coming off a runner-up finish by a neck in a second-level allowance race at nine furlongs April 11 on the Keeneland turf. She had two starts in Florida before that, finishing second to Parranda in the Suwannee River Stakes (gr. IIT) in February at Gulfstream Park, and third in the Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Tampa Bay Downs. She won twice in her native England including a score in the 1 1/2-mile Ribblesdale Stakes (Eng-II) at Ascot last June.
"The first two times she ran (in the United States) we were going nine furlongs and the fractions were very, very slow. She found it hard to close into those fractions," Mott noted.
Her career record improved to 3-3-1 in 10 races with earnings of $340,968.
Mott said he plans to keep Riposte at longer distances.
"She ran in some very important races over in Europe," he said. "She won the Ribblesdale, which is a very good prep race, and she wasn't beaten much in the other races."
Toting top weight of 120 pounds, Riposte paid $7.20, $3.80, and $2.60 as the third choice. Abaco returned $3.70 and $2.40, and completed a $24.60 excata. Irish Mission paid $3.
Viva Rafaela scratched. Belle Gallantey, Flash Forward, and Lady Cohiba were entered for the main track only.