Jockey Chris DeCarlo put his rivals to sleep aboard 28-1 shot Inimitable Romanee and the mare sprinted for home to register a one-length surprise in the 1 1/2-mile Long Island Handicap (gr. IIIT) Nov. 9 on the turf at Aqueduct Racetrack (VIDEO).
Racing on a grass course rated good in the $200,000 event, DeCarlo walked the dog through a half-mile in :53.62, a mile in 1:46.29, and 10 furlongs in 2:10.19. The 5-year-old New York-bred daughter of Maria's Mon did the rest, completing the final quarter mile in a shade over 24 seconds as the longest shot in the field of seven fillies and mares. The final time for Inimitable Romanee's first stakes win was 2:34.28.
Tabreed, closing with interest along the rail under Junior Alvarado, got up for second by a half-length over Left a Message and Alex Solis. Aigue Marine, the 8-5 favorite, finished off the board without an excuse after getting a good stalking trip.
Morning-line favorite Anjaz was scratched by trainer Tom Albertrani.
Gallaghers Stud's Inimitable Romanee was one of two in the field for trainer Graham Motion, who also saddled fourth-place finisher Strathnaver.
Bettors could be forgiven for overlooking Inimitable Romanee on the win end since the gray mare had not scored since taking a first-level turf allowance event over state-breds at Belmont Park July 4, 2012. She had lost 11 races in a row, though she had four seconds and five thirds in that span.
She was coming off an eighth-place finish in the Ticonderoga Stakes Oct. 19 at Belmont after brushing the gate at the start and racing wide.
But in her first try at the 12-furlong distance, she led at every call in the Long Island after getting the lead from her rail post from Strathnaver soon after the start. Her stablemate and Left a Message raced in close attendance as the meandering pace unfolded, and those three showed the way as Aigue Marine settled into a stalking spot fourth. Tabreed raced covered along the inside near the rear of the pack.
At the head of the stretch, Inimitable Romanee was given her cue by DeCarlo and she began to edge away from her pace rivals to open a two-length advantage. Tabreed, finding room along the inside, was the only one gaining on the winner in the late stages, but had too much to do.
"I was concerned with my two horses being head-to-head, but when I saw 1:20 (for three-quarters) I felt pretty comfortable," Motion said. "Chris rode a great race. He kind of had it strategized beforehand, and I give him a lot of credit.
"She's a deserving mare, a hard-knocking mare, who deserved to win (a stakes). She had been knocking heads with some hard-knocking fillies. It just goes to show you how tough those New York-breds have been."
Bred by Gallagher's Shiraz out of the grades stakes-winning mare Cellars Shiraz, by Kissin Kris, Inimitable Romanee won for the third time in 21 lifetime starts while boosting her bankroll to $323,875.
"I didn't think there was any real speed in there," DeCarlo said. "I was pretty sure that if I did make the lead, no one was going to push me because she was 25 or 26-1. My plan was all along that if I was able to make a comfortable lead, when I hit the turn I was going to open up, see how much I had left, and get as much separation between me and the rest of the field as possible. That's what happened. When I finally dropped her head, she gave me an unbelievable turn of foot."
Inimitable Romanee carried 115 pounds and paid $58.50, $19.80, and $9.60. Tabreed, who like the favorite is trained by Christophe Clement, returned $6.90 and $4.10 while completing a generous $331 exacta. Left a Message paid $3.10 to show. Strathnaver was followed by White Rose, Aigue Marine, and Sheppard's Pie.