After being purchased privately for a lofty but undisclosed sum, Sky Girl provided new owner John Clay's Alpha Delta Stables with a quick return on investment. The 3-year-old filly found an opening on the rail in the stretch and ran down Irish Lute to win the $110,000 Dogwood Stakes (gr. III) Sept. 21 at Churchill Downs (VIDEO).
Sky Girl, ridden by Corey Lanerie, ran seven furlongs on a fast main track in 1:23.73 to win by 1 1/2 lengths while padding Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott's Churchill Downs career win and stakes win records. It was his 674th local victory and 88th stakes triumph beneath the Twin Spires.
It was Mott's second Dogwood victory; he won the race in 1984 with Hiram Polk and David Richardson's classy filly Mrs. Revere, for whom a Churchill stakes is now named.
Sky Girl, previously trained by Paul McGee, was privately sold to Clay by owner Samantha Siegel's Jay Em Ess Stable following her third-place finish in the Arlington Oaks (gr. III), which was contested over 1 1/8 miles on the Polytrack surface at Arlington Park on July 20. Prior to the that effort, she was victorious in two starts during Churchill Downs' spring meet—a 4 1/2-length romp in a maiden special weight followed by a two-length score in a first-level allowance/optional claiming race.
In her first start for Mott, Sky Girl broke from the inside post in the field of six 3-year-old fillies and patiently tracked pacesetters Irish Lute and Guadalupe High, who dueled for the early lead through modest fractions of :23.16 and :46.30. Irish Lute put away Guadalupe High on the final turn as Sky Girl ranged into contention with a three-wide move. The eventual winner was bottled up behind the leaders at the top of the stretch but Lanerie patiently waited for a hole to open on the inside and angled the filly in for her winning move.
"I was hoping to come around—I thought the rail was a little bit dead—but it was getting late in the race and (inside) looked like my only option," Lanerie said. "I didn't want to wait too long."
"I thought she showed a lot of heart to come up the inside and push past the five (Irish Lute) and she won pretty nicely," said Mott's veteran Kentucky assistant Kenny McCarthy.
Sky Girl, sent to post as the 4-5 betting favorite, paid $3.80, $2.60 and $2.20. Irish Lute, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, returned $3.20 and $2.60. Elusive Fate was another neck back in third under Brian Hernandez Jr., and paid $3.80.
The $67,518 first prize jumped Sky Girl's career earnings to $150,853. The new stakes winner has won three of five starts overall with a pair of thirds. Each of her victories has come at Churchill Downs.
"She's got a big future, I think," Lanerie said.
Sky Girl, a daughter of Sky Mesa out of the Deputy Minister mare Vargas Girl, was bred in Kentucky by Eamon Cleary's Clearsky Farms of Lexington. She was sold at Keeneland's 2011 September Yearling Sale for $150,000.
The Dogwood—named for the hardy blooming tree that adds beauty to the spring landscape in Kentucky—was renewed at Churchill Downs' September meet following a one-year hiatus. It had been run during the Spring Meet from 1975 to 2011.