Stonestreet Stables' homebred Keen Pauline upset the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) May 15, showing the way and then drawing off in the stretch to earn her biggest career victory at Pimlico Race Course (VIDEO).
A 15-1 shot who only had a maiden score from last September under her belt, the 3-year-old Pulpit filly improved off a fourth-place finish in a six-furlong allowance sprint April 16 at Keeneland for trainer Dale Romans and aced her first attempt at the 1 1/8-mile distance.
"Yesterday galloping over this racetrack, she loved it, and today just proved what kind of filly she's going to be," assistant trainer Tammy Fox said. "We've always liked her from the get-go. Even though it doesn't show much on paper, she's always had the ability.
"The race at Keeneland, going short, that was just a race because she needed a race, and then the gallop-out during that race was great, and after that race she's been working very good. I've always liked her... it's just taken a little bit more time with her, and here we are."
Javier Castellano rode the chestnut filly to victory through splits of :24.37, :49.09, 1:13, and 1:37.85 to finish in a final time of 1:50.40 on a fast track.
"You have to take advantage when anything happens in a race," Castellano said. "I didn't expect to be on the lead. I saw a lot of speed in the race. I thought that Martin Garcia (on Luminance) had the speed and was going to dictate the pace. He broke OK and didn't send his horse to the lead. My horse broke so well out of the gate, I dictated the pace—and I enjoyed the ride."
Include Betty closed to grab second, two lengths back, while Ahh Chocolate finished third. Luminance, favored at 6-5, did not show early speed as expected, but was in the second tier early before fading to finish fifth in the nine-horse field.
"I told (Garcia), 'You just took her best weapon away from her,' " Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said of Luminance. "She needed the lead. She couldn't get it, so after that she wasn't effective at all. We would have preferred to be on the lead."
"We never got to the front. That's all," Garcia said.
Keen Pauline returned $32.80, $10.80, and $5.80, while Include Betty brought $5.40 and $3.40 with Ahh Chocolate paying $4.40. Danessa Deluxe, Luminance, Pure, Sweetgrass, Gypsy Judy, and Devine Aida completed the order of finish.
"The farther the better," Fox said of sending Keen Pauline at a distance. "She's always had a great mind to her and it helps with a filly—there's a lot more you can work with. She rated nice, she had her ears pricked. As soon as I saw her on the lead with Javier just sitting on her, ears pricked, going :49, I knew she'd be tough to beat after that."
Bred in Kentucky from the Two Punch mare Grand Pauline, Keen Pauline is the first graded stakes winner for her dam and the 75th stakes winner for her sire. She improved her record to 2-1-1 from six starts for earnings of $180,932. She was a $475,000 RNA from the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale when consigned by Gainesway.
"She was at Keeneland, and (bloodstock agent) John (Moynihan) said 'You know, I like this filly, I don't want to sell her,' so he asked the consignor what they thought she'd bring and we set the reserve about $300,000 higher," owner Barbara Banke said. "So we kept her. It was a great decision.
"We knew that she had a good race in her, and Dale kept telling me this was a good race for her, and we said 'Well, that's a little tough,' but he said 'No, no, I think she's got a good shot,' and he's the trainer and he's been with her every day, Tammy too."
Romans, who did not make it to Pimlico for the race due to flight delays, said the Black-Eyed Susan had been his goal for Keen Pauline all season long.
"The plan was to go there all along, to the Black-Eyed Susan," he explained when reached by phone. "I knew we would duck all the (Longines Kentucky) Oaks (gr. I) horses.
"She trains like she's fast enough to sprint and I was wanting to run her short at Keeneland and wheel her back to show speed in here. I actually thought she would win that day but she didn't run as well as we thought, but she came out of the race well.
"That's the good thing about it an owner like Barbara, she'll let you do what you need to do develop a horse and let her come along. I kept telling her she would have a breakthrough race, and this was it."
The connections of Keen Pauline said no exact plans have been made for a future target, although the graded stakes series for fillies at Saratoga Race Course could be in the cards.
"I planned from the beginning of the year (for) the Black-Eyed Susan," Romans remarked. "I didn't map out much beyond that."
"We'll just see how she comes out of this race and we'll bring her up to New York, maybe. I'm excited," Banke said.