Sassy Image and Mike Smith after their dramatic victory in the Princess Rooney.

Sassy Image and Mike Smith after their dramatic victory in the Princess Rooney.

Jim Lisa Photos

Sassy Image Snags Princess Rooney at Wire

Dale Romans-trained filly comes from far out of it to nip Musical Romance at Calder.

Favored Sassy Image came from out of the clouds to capture the $350,000 Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I) by a neck to highlight the "Summit of Speed" program at Calder Casino & Race Course July 9, her second grade I win in two months (VIDEO).

The field was seven abreast at mid-stretch in the six-furlong Princess Rooney, Calder's only grade I race. However, Sassy Image, who looked hopelessly beaten at the quarter pole, blew past them all on the extreme outside under left-handed urging from Mike Smith to nip Musical Romance at the wire. The final time was 1:11.61 on a main track rated "good."

Trained by Dale Romans for his brother, Jerry Romans, Sassy Image earned her third consecutive graded stakes win, a streak that began May 7 with a three-length win in the Humana Distaff Stakes (gr. I) on the Kentucky Derby program. The daughter of Broken Vow —Ideal Image (by Hennessy) returned to take Churchill's Winning Colors Stakes (gr. III) by a neck May 30.

J C Davis Farm bred the 4-year-old chestnut filly in Kentucky. A winner of seven of 14 lifetime races, Sassy Image was purchased for $42,000 as a Keeneland September yearling in 2008.

“Mike said she just wasn’t handling the racetrack at all in the early going, and she just dropped out of it down the backstretch," Dale Romans said. "He got her to the outside around the turn and into the stretch and she got up to win it.

"Considering that she didn’t like the track, it might have been her most impressive race ever. We came here because the timing for this one after her last race was perfect and then to go to the Ballerina (gr. I) at Saratoga (Aug. 27) for her next start. Then it’s back home to Churchill for the Breeders’ Cup (Filly & Mare Sprint on Nov. 4).”

Musical Romance, ridden by Juan Leyva, was an unlucky second, with Indulgence and Jose Alvarez third.

Sassy Image was making her Calder debut for the Romans brothers as the 8-5 favorite in the field of 10. She was slow to begin, quickly dropping back to last, as Cosmo Girl, breaking from the rail, gained a narrow lead while posting swift quarter-mile splits of :21.39 and :44.98.

A wall of horses charged down the stretch with Musical Romance splitting horses past mid-stretch to get the lead from Jehan. Musical Romance looked like a winner as she closed in on the wire. But Sassy Image, after swinging to the far outside for the drive, was flying. Still last at the furlong marker, she put in a tremendous late effort for Smith, who was riding her for the first time.

“The race set up for us exactly the way we wanted and expected it to," Smith said. "The problem was that my filly was not getting a hold of the track at all, especially early on in the race. She kept falling toward the outer part of the track. When I finally let her go where she was comfortable, she kicked in for me. I didn’t want to be way out in the middle of the track, but that’s what it took.”

Musical Romance finished a length in front of Indulgence, who rallied from next-to-last at mid-stretch to get third.

Stephanie Got Even finished the best of four Marty Wolfson-trained entrants in fourth. She was followed by grade I winner Champagne d'Oro, Jehan, Cosmo Girl, Derwin's Star, Bella Moneta, and Don'ttalktome.

Sassy Image, winner of Churchill's Pocahontas (gr. III) and Golden Rod (gr. II) stakes as a 2-year-old, earned $206,150 for the Princess Rooney victory, boosting her career bankroll to $804,931.

She carried top weight of 124 pounds and paid $5.20, $3.20, $2.80. Musical Romance, who had won back-to-back stakes at Calder for trainer Bill Kaplan heading into the Princess Rooney, returned $5.60 and $3.60 and completed a $32.40 exacta. Indulgence was $5 to show.