Taking advantage of a heady rail-skimming trip from Joe Bravo, Brazilian-bred Here to Win outkicked Keertana in the stretch for an 11-1 upset in $100,000 The Very One (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) Feb. 25 at Gulfstream Park.
A two-time group I winner in South Africa, Here to Win won her first start in the United States in her third try. She was third in a Jan. 13 optional claimer at Gulfstream in her previous start. Kiaran McLaughlin trains the 6-year-old Roi Normand mare for Trick or Treat International. She was bred by Hara Santa Ana do Rio Grande.
Here to Win won by one length and covered 1 3/8 miles on the firm turf course in 2:13.22. Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) winner Perfect Shirl finished a non-threatening eighth as the 19-10 choice in her season debut.
The winner raced at the back in the field of 11 older fillies and mares in the early stages while Good Karma showed the way through splits of :24.44, :48.38, 1:14.03. Casablanca Smile tracked the pacesetter and when they came off the final turn she took a narrow advantage. But Keertana had arrived on the scene to their outside and Here to Win was making a strong move along the rail.
Those two kicked away from the field in the stretch, but it was Here to Win that had the best turn of foot and she got to the wire with plenty left in reserve. Keertana, the winner of last year’s The Very One, settled for second under Jose Lezcano, 4 1/2 in front of 50-1 Woodford Belle. Casablanca Smile was fourth.
“I was really confident going into this race with this filly,” Bravo said. “I rode her twice before. It’s a shame the filly don’t handle the soft turf because she would have won the first time I rode her. She was the best horse. Today I was very confident after being able to sit on her a couple times. I knew there were some really good horses in the race but I knew she would be giving that kick.”
Here to Win improved to 5-2-3 from 16 starts and upped her earnings to $232,010. The 6-year-old dark bay/brown mare began her career in South Africa where she won three times including the South Africa Fillies Classic (SAf-I). She spent most of last year in Dubai before shipping to the states.
“It’s a pleasant surprise for her to beat a field like this, but she was a grade 1 winner in South Africa and we knew she had some quality," said McLaughlin. "Her first race over here was on a yielding course at Laurel that she just didn’t handle. But her second race here in the allowance race was good. Joe gave her a great ride today; never left the fence. Last time she was 10-wide.
"It’s a shame the owners weren’t here to enjoy this. They’re from Norway and came for her first two races. If everything is okay we’ll probably bring her back in the Orchid (March 31).”
Here to Win is out of the Falcon Jet mate Ascot Belle. She paid $24.40, $9, and $7.40. The exacta (1-6) returned $117 and the trifecta (1-6-3) was worth $1,186.40.