Last year's Eclipse Award-winning female sprinter Musical Romance bid a proper farewell to Calder Casino & Race Course Oct.6 in Florida, winning the $55,000 Mike Sherman Memorial Stakes in her 25th and final start over her home track (VIDEO) in advance of her Nov. 3 title defense in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park.
"The only job we had today was to get her one step closer to the Breeders' Cup," said co-owner and trainer Bill Kaplan following the race. "And I believe that's what we were able to accomplish."
Riding for Kaplan and Pinnacle Racing Stables, Juan Leyva, who has been aboard Musical Romance for 23 of her career starts including each of her last 16 trips to the track, the daughter of Concorde's Tune never lost sight of early leader Golden Mystery, staying within two lengths of that rival as she set the pace through opening splits of :22.43 and :45.83.
Golden Mystery retained a one-length advantage in mid-stretch, but in the final yards Musical Romance made her way to the front and was ridden out through the wire to a three-quarter length victory, running the 6 1/2-furlong distance in 1:17.13.
"She didn't really have to work hard for it," Leyva said as he walked back to the jockey's room after his winning ride. "All we wanted to get out of this was a good race for her; to just have her finish and keep her healthy. That's all we were looking for. And it looks like that's exactly what we got."
For Leyva, who has won with the filly nine times, eight of which were stakes, the Mike Sherman marked his penultimate appearance aboard the champion mare, who is scheduled to be offered at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November select mixed sale in Lexington Nov. 5, two days after her Breeders' Cup run.
"If you want to know the truth, it's kind of bittersweet," the rider said of the understanding that he and Musical Romance would part ways in four weeks. "She's a real special mare, and she's done a lot for me.
"But our work isn't done yet. There's still the Breeders' Cup, and this year it's at home for me. I'm from California and a lot of my family is still out there, so they'll be there to see me. I can't wait."
With her victory in the Mike Sherman Memorial, Musical Romance is now a 12-time winner from 40 career starts with earnings of $1,681,885. The mare has made 25 lifetime appearances at Calder, visiting the local winner's circle eight times, including a win in this year's running of the grade I Princess Rooney Handicap.