As her name implies, Ageless, winner of the $100,000 The Very One Stakes Presented by HRTV May 17 at Pimlico Race Course, continues to improve with age (VIDEO).
Owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson's Lael Stables, the 5-year-old mare by Successful Appeal —Special One, by Point Given, made it back-to-back stakes scores with a stylish victory as the 2-1 favorite at five furlongs over a turf course listed as good.
In a second turf race on the Preakness undercard, Wallyanna, claimed two starts previously, rewarded his new connections with an impressive stakes win in the $100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes Presented by RTN for 3-year-olds at one mile on the turf (VIDEO).
Ageless, under confident handling from jockey Luis Garcia, raced near mid-pack into the far turn while 22-1 shot Knit One Purr Too carved out early splits of :22.63 and :47.02 in leading the maximum field of 14 around the far turn.
When Knit One Purr Too drifted off the rail entering the stretch, Garcia took advantage of a seam along the inside after maneuvering Ageless to the rail. It proved to be the winning move.
Ageless drove through inside, hit the front past mid-stretch and powered to the wire with a wall of horses giving chase. Edging clear late, she won by three-quarters of a length and stopped the clock in :58.91. Ageless paid $6.60, $4.60, and $3.20.
"She bobbled real hard on me on the turn," said Garcia of the winner, "but this turf course is soft. She handled it fine. It was good to save ground, but it wasn't my idea to sit on the rail. It's just how the race developed. I wasn't sure the rail would open."
Perfect Measure, at odds of 28-1, produced a determined late charge to finish second, completing a $135 exacta and paying $20 and $11.20. Quality Lass ($7.60) emerged between horses to check in third, 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
Due to the fact their charge was covered up for much of the trip, the Jacksons were unable to closely follow their color bearer during the running of the race.
"We couldn't really see where she was," said Roy Jackson. "We saw her in deep stretch, maybe 10 strides out."
"He's done a great job with her," Jackson said of winning trainer Arnaud Delacour. "He's been very patient."
Delacour admitted to having concerns about how his charge would take to the Pimlico turf course, softened by rain a day earlier.
"Obviously, she didn't mind," Delacour said. She saved ground and came with a big kick at the end. She likes this distance, but I think she's good anywhere from 5 to 6 1/2 (furlongs)."
Bred in Kentucky by Hinkle Farms, Ageless is now a winner in seven of 13 appearances and boasts earnings of $264,940. In her prior start, the bay mare notched the initial stakes score of her career in the Giant's Causeway April 19 at Keeneland. Prior to that, she was third in the Lightning City Stakes Jan. 25 at Tampa Bay Downs.
Two races later, Wallyanna, ridden by Javier Castellano, hopped inward at the break and rated in third position while pulling his way around the first turn. Open the Bank, a 25-1 long shot, dictated proceedings early and led the field of eight into the backstretch through fractions of :23.82 and :48.77.
Rounding the far turn after six furlongs went in 1:13.89, Wallyanna forged alongside the pacesetter. Open the Bank came off the rail in the lane, brushing with Wallyanna who appeared to lug in while discovering his best stride. Once leveled out, Wallyanna drew clear in the lane under right-handed encouragement from Castellano to win by a widening 4 3/4 lengths. The winner covered the distance in 1:39.09 over a turf course listed as good.
"Our goal today was to take him back a little bit, then kick to the finish," said Castellano. "I was able to take him back and rate behind the leaders. He sat beautiful on the backside. Turning for home, the front-runner drifted a little bit and I had to check. We steadied and then he showed good acceleration when I asked him for run. It was very impressive the way he did it today."
Under equal weights of 116 pounds, Wallyanna returned $7.80, $4.60, and $3.60 and topped a $184.80 exacta over runner-up Open the Bank ($15.40 and $6.60), who fought back bravely to save second. Thunder Strike closed ground late to get third,returning $4.20 to show. The 2-1 race favorite, Special Envoy was never a factor and wound up fifth.
Trainer Michael Pino claimed Wallyanna for owner Tim E. O'Donohue Racing for $35,000 from the colt's breeder Mike Tarp and trainer Dale Romans off a maiden-breaking effort at Gulfstream Park March 16. That start followed a fifth-place finish at Churchill Downs on debut last November.
Following the claim, the dark bay or brown colt promptly won an allowance event at Keeneland April 12 in his first start for Pino.
"He had an OK race at Churchill and we thought we'd go over and look at him," explained Pino of the claim. "If he was impressive looking we figured we would take a shot. Obviously, he's an awesome-looking horse. We got lucky.
"When we first got him he had presence and acted like a good horse," Pino added. "I couldn't have asked for this race to go better. He's a young horse and is still learning."
The 3-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Langfuhr, out of the Tale of the Cat mare Magbel, is a winner in three of four lifetime starts with earnings of $91,086.
As for what's up next for Wallyanna, Pino said, "Hopefully there's some more bright light ahead. Anything is possible. We'll sit back, see how he comes out of it and play it by ear."