Favored Somali Lemonade is on her way to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT) with her perfect record intact after sweeping to victory in the $150,000 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes (gr. IIIT) on a yielding Keeneland grass course Oct. 13 (VIDEO).
Last early, Somali Lemonade weaved her way through traffic on the final turn for jockey Alex Solis and emerged on the outside at the head of the stretch. The daughter of Lemon Drop Kid charged home impressively to pass Sweet Cat in the final furlong and registered a 1 3/4-length victory. The time was 1:45.39 for the 1 1/16-mile test.
Michael Matz trains the winning homebred for owner Caroline A. Forgason. Somali Lemonade, bred in Kentucky, earned a berth at this year's BC Juvenile Turf with her win in the Jessamine, a "Win & You're In" event for the Breeders' Cup. The race is Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.
“I was a little nervous because she’s only had one start, but she showed her class today," Matz said.
As far as the Breeders’ Cup, the trainer responded: “I think I’ll have to talk to Cina (Forgason), her owner. I would think we’d like to try it.”
Matz could be looking forward to a big Breeders' Cup with romping Champagne Stakes (gr. I) winner Union Rags , also undefeated, a serious contender in the Grey Goose BC Juvenile (gr. I).
Two scratches left the oversubscribed Jessamine with a dozen 2-year-old fillies. Somali Lemonade, who won her maiden test in thrilling last-to-first style Sept. 11 going seven furlongs on the grass at Belmont Park, was made the 6-5 favorite on a rainy afternoon at Keeneland.
Unhurried at the start, Somali Lemonade settled in hand at the back of the pack as 104-1 shot Falconess took the early lead from Sweet Cat and showed the way under pressure from Soonerette through fractions of :22.31, :47.50, and 1:13.72.
Soonerette reached even terms with the pacesetter rounding the turn but gave way as Sweet Cat, stalking three wide for John Velazquez, rallied to get the lead at the head of the stretch. Sweet Cat took control in the lane as Somali Lemonade, still ninth on the turn, picked off her rivals after being roused approaching the quarter pole.
Somali Cat had several to pass in the homestretch but had aim on the leader while clear on the outside. She drew to within a half-length at the eighth pole and swept clear of Sweet Cat in the final sixteenth of a mile.
“She likes to take her time leaving the gate," Solis said of the winner. "After that, just like the first time (race) I just let her do her thing. She’s so professional behind all those horses. When we got to the half-mile pole, I called on her a little bit and she jumped in the bit right away and she was ready to do whatever I wanted. At the quarter pole, I got her out in the open and she flew home.”
It was nine lengths back to the third-place finisher Emerald Gold, ridden by Garrett Gomez.
Somali Lemonade, a bay filly out of the Nureyev mare Chic Corine, earned $90,000 for the victory and has now banked a total of $120,000. In her maiden effort at Belmont, she was bumped hard at the start and was five wide on the turn, but proved victorious by nearly two lengths while defeating 10 rivals.
Carrying 118 pounds in the Jessamine, she paid $4.40, $3, $2.40. Sweet Cat, a daughter of Kitten's Joy trained by Todd Pletcher, returned $5 and $3.40 in her first start since a two-length maiden win at Saratoga as the favorite Sept. 1. The exacta was worth $19.80. Second choice Emerald Gold paid $2.60 to show in her initial start on grass for Glen Hill Farm and trainer Tom Proctor.
Emerald Gold, who was coming off a third-place finish in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) on Polytrack Sept. 3, finished a neck in front of Spring Eclipse. Then came Grace for Grace, Falconess, Honey Talk, Quick Silver Song, Soonerette, Piskacha, Charming Vixen, and Bless My Halo. Dream Pegasus and Slip Along Band were scratched.