Favored Dance Card shook off the Puerto Rican challenger My Wandy's Girl leaving the turn for home and cruised to a four-length triumph in the $350,000 Gazelle Stakes (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies at Aqueduct Racetrack Nov. 24 (VIDEO) .
Godolphin Racing's Dance Card recorded her fourth consecutive victory while collecting her first graded stakes win for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The trainer ended a long drought in which he had just one victory from 51 prior starters.
"It's never felt so good to be two for our last 52," McLaughlin said afterward.
In the race following a thrilling come-from-behind win by Stay Thirsty over Groupie Doll in the Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I), there were no such heroics in the Gazelle. Dance Card, leading from shortly after the start in her first try around two turns, drew off through the lane for jockey Ramon Dominguez to win in spite of drifting out badly once again in the final furlong.
Sea Island came on late to finish second, with My Wandy's Girl third. Dance Card, the 8-5 favorite in the field of seven, completed the 1 1/8-mile trip in 1:50.39 over a fast track with a light snow falling.
Dance Card's victory was the third for Godolphin in the Gazelle, and the second for McLaughlin. Godolphin's prior wins came in 2002 with Imperial Gesture and in 2009 with Flashing, while McLaughlin's prior score came in 2007 with Lear's Princess for West Point Thoroughbreds. The Gazelle has been contested at Aqueduct since 2009 after being a fixture at Belmont Park from 1969 through 2008.
A daughter of Tapit out of multiple stakes-placed Tempting Note, by Editor's Note, Dance Card was making her first start since a 7 1/2-length romp in the Belle Cherie Stakes at Belmont Sept. 23 in her stakes debut.
Dance Card took the early lead from Wildcat's Smile and controlled the tempo with My Wandy's Girl, a star in Puerto Rico making her second start in the United States, glued to her outside. Dance Card clipped off even fractions of :23.92, :48.62, and 1:12.67 before beginning to inch away under light urging from My Wandy's Girl and Wildcat's Smile rounding the final bend.
Taking command by 2 1/2 lengths under a drive from Dominguez, who took a quick look back to make sure her challengers had dropped back, Dance Card drifted out from mid-stretch. But she was in the clear as she weaved under the stick toward the wire.
It was the third straight race in which Dance Card drifted out noticeably in the lane while well clear of her opponents.
"It's not ideal, but as long as they cross the wire first," said McLaughlin, comparing her to Questing, another grade I winner he trains for Godolphin. "(They) are both grade I winners, so if that's what it takes, we'll take it."
Sea Island, a 22-1 shot ridden by Jose Lezcano, was restrained off the early pace but ran on well from last in the homestretch to get second by a neck over My Wandy's Gal and John Velazquez. Lady Cohiba finished fourth, followed by 9-5 second choice Book Review, Jemima's Pearl, and Wildcat's Smile.
Bred in Kentucky by Bruce McMillin, Dance Card was a $750,000 2-year-old buy at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale in February 2011. The dark bay filly began her career racing under Sheikh Mohammed's Darley silks and sported Godolphin blue for the first time in the Gazelle. She finished second in her debut to Book Review after a wide trip at Belmont Park in May and hasn't lost since. The victory for her fourth win in five tries was worth $210,00 and boosted her career bankroll to $372,200.
"When she drifted out in the stretch, she was just looking around," said Dominguez, who has ridden Dance Card in all of her races. "I'm not worried about it, or complaining about it. She's a beautiful animal with high cruising speed and she can pick it up whenever you ask her. She was perfect through the whole race, and down the lane she wanted to drift out some, but she keeps running. She's special, and I love her."
Under equal weights of 115 pounds, Dance Card paid $5.20, $3.40, $2.60. Phipps Stable's improving Sea Island returned $14.20 and $6.40 while completing an $88.50 exacta. My Wandy's Gal paid $3.20 to show.