Vexed comes home strong to win the Golden Rod Stakes.

Vexed comes home strong to win the Golden Rod Stakes.

Reed Palmer Photography, Churchill Downs

Vexed Shows Grit in Winning Golden Rod

In first try at two turns, filly powers to lead in mid-stretch to win by a length.

In her first try at two turns, Vexed delivered a hard-fought victory over nine other juvenile fillies in the $169,050 Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) Nov. 30 at Churchill Downs (VIDEO).

After breaking from post 7 in the 1 1/16-mile test, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider's homebred showed enough speed to find a comfortable first-turn position tracking early leader Daddy's Memory, initially in the two path before being moved toward the rail by Shaun Bridgmohan. Daddy's Memory would lead the field through a half-mile in :47.88 before Stonetastic would edge past after six furlongs in 1:12.52.

In the far turn after tracking in third, Bridgmohan angled Vexed three wide and the daughter of Arch moved with 3-1 second-choice Stonetastic as that pair opened up on the fading Daddy's Memory and the other fillies. Stoneway Farm's Stonetastic, a daughter of Mizzen Mast  who broke from the outside, seized the lead in early stretch but Vexed found another gear past mid-stretch to surge past the Pocahontas Stakes (gr. III) runner-up.

Vexed then moved well to the wire, holding off a late, outside charge from 3-1 favorite Bird Maker to post the one-length victory. Vexed, a 7-2 shot who entered off a runner-up finish in the one-turn mile Rags to Riches Stakes Oct. 27 at Churchill, completed the 1 1/16-mile test in 1:43.83.

"To me it looked like she took a pretty big step forward," said winning trainer Al Stall Jr. "I liked the way she acted in the paddock; she was really flat-footed. Shaun said that once she got clear of (Stonetastic) ... she really just dropped it and started galloping along and finished up when she saw some horses coming to her. I think we saw what we needed to see so it's a question of just managing her and trying to get back here in May (for the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks)."

With the victory, Claiborne Farm ties Calumet Farm for most Churchill stakes wins at 32. Dell Hancock said it's an honor to have a share of the record.

"It's wonderful to have. We don't think like, 'Well, we need one more to do this.' Now we might think about if we win the next one we'll be the leading owner but, you know, you want to win every race you can," Hancock said. "It's a tribute to Seth (Hancock) and my father (A.B. "Bull" Hancock Jr.) to have this."

Bird Maker, a homebred for Marylou Whitney Stables, earned her first stakes placing. The daughter of Empire Maker  secured her maiden win in her previous start Nov. 3 at Churchill.

Vexed returned $9.20 to win, $4.80 to place, and $3 to show. Bird Maker returned $4.80 and $3 while Stonetastic paid $3 to show.

Out of stakes winner Cross, by Mighty, Vexed is a half sister to Sign, by Pulpit, who won last year's Pocahontas at Churchill.