Somali Lemonade had never been to Pimlico Race Course before, but on the track's biggest card in front of a Preakness Day throng, the 5-year-old mare held on to victory in the $150,000 Gallorette Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO).
Longshot Daydreamin Gracie was the only one who kept Somali Lemonade company on the front end, putting slight early pressure on the 7-5 favorite through an opening quarter in :23.46 and a half in :47.60. Those two separated themselves from the field by seven lengths up the backstretch in the 1 1/16-mile turf event, but the rest of the seven older fillies and mares began gaining ground as three-quarters went in 1:12.18.
Having put away Daydreamin Gracie turning for home while taking the inside route, Somali Lemonade held five-length advantage in the stretch for jockey Luis Saez, but saw that gap diminish as 2-1 Watsdachances put in a late inside run.
In the end, half a length kept the Michael Matz trainee the wire-to-wire winner despite her drifting out several paths from the sixteenth pole. Watsdachances, ridden by Javier Castellano, had to settle for second behind a final time of 1:44.16. It was 7 1/4 lengths back to Triple Arch in third.
"She never started going to the lead until she turned 5 and I don't know what's gotten into her in her old age," Matz said. "The trip today was fine. She likes the footing a little soft and she only had a little early pressure.
"We were going to retire her this year but after she ran that good race at Gulfstream (a second in the grade III Marshua's River Jan 4 leading to an April 13 allowance score at Keeneland), the owner, who is my sister-in-law, said 'Do we really have to retire her?' This is her only horse."
Matz said the June 7 Just a Game Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park is a possibility for Somali Lemonade's next start.
The winning daughter of Lemon Drop Kid was bred in Kentucky by Cina Forgason out of the Nureyev mare Chic Corine and is raced by Caroline A. Forgason. The Gallorette was her third grade III victory; she also counts last year's Dr. James Penny Memorial Handiap (gr. IIIT) at Parx Racing and the 2011 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland among on her 5-3-2 record from 20 starts, with earnings of $573,421.
"She started to get out a little bit (in the stretch), but I didn't want to fight her," Saez said. "She did the same thing last time, and when you try to fight her, she tries to stop. The trip was good. I put her in the lead like last time, but I had a little pressure all the way around today. She just kept running. She never gives us a bad race."
Somali Lemonade paid $4.80, $2.80, and $2.40 while Watsdachances brought $3 and $2.80. Triple Arch was worth $4.80 as Daydreamin Gracie, Starstruck, Embarr, and Lady Ten completed the order of finish. Brenda's Way, Strathnaver, and Surtsey scratched.
Peter Bradley, co-owner of Watsdachances, said he was pleased with his 4-year-old filly's effort in her season debut. The Chad Brown-trained daughter of Diamond Green had not raced since a Nov. 9 victory in the Summer Secretary Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack.
"For her first start back, she ran a really big race," Bradley said. "The winner is a good horse on the lead and on the softer turf, too. We ran our race and just didn't quite get there. There's next time. She never gives us a bad race."