A two-time group I winner and Horse of the Year in her native Brazil, Celtic Princess finally notched her first stakes win in the United States in her sixth try, handily taking the $150,000 Royal Heroine Mile (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) July 4 at Hollywood Park.
The 7-year-old daughter of Public Purse had suffered a couple of close defeats in previous stakes tries since shipping to the U.S. at the end of 2009, including the May 30 Gamely (gr. IT) last out when she was caught by a head in the final yards. But she was a clear winner this time, scoring by 2 1/4 lengths under Rafael Bejarano in her second start of the season.
A homebred of Luiz Fernando Dannemann's Coudelaria Jessica, Celtic Princess in trained by A. C. Avila. The bay mare is out of the Formal Dinner mare Exotic Dinner.
"I had a chance to beat the odds last time, coming from five months off," Avila said. "I had to rush to get her ready for the mile and one-eighth. It was hard to say how good she was because she kept getting sick, sick, sick. She almost died in New York."
Apparently her strong performance in the Gamely was enough to convince Dannemann to pay a $25,000 nomination fee last month to the Breeders' Cup World Championships. Avila is confident Celtic Princess will keep improving.
"Everything she does is just super," he said, adding he will next start her in either the $250,000 John C. Mabee Stakes Aug. 14 at Del Mar and the $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes Aug. 13 at Arlington Park.
Celtic Princess received the perfect trip under Bejarano, sitting about 1 1/2 lengths back of Givine, who showed the way through fractions of :23.77, :47.14, and 1:10.41. The order didn't change much through three-quarters, as Andina raced in third, followed by Late Cuddle, Wild Mia, and Harmonious.
Entering three-wide into the lane, Celtic Princess finally took over from Givine at the eighth-pole and inched away in the final furlong. Harmonious and Joel Rosario rallied from last to get second but they were never a threat to the winner. Andina was third.
“She’s really good," said Bejarano. "The last time was the first time I rode her, and she probably should have won. She didn’t have an excuse but she ran really well and showed me a big kick in the stretch. In the gate, I loaded last and the guy in the gate was holding her trying to keep her straight. But just then, the gate opened and she chewed the bit a little bit and threw her head. I didn’t try to fight her, I just left her alone.”
The final time for one mile on the firm turf was 1:33.74.
Harmonious' trainer John Shirreffs said he was very happy with her performance.
“I thought it was tremendous," he said. "It was her last work when I thought she was really getting it. The first time when we worked her five-eighths, she just got a little tired. The second time she worked much better. With the move she made and the way she responded, I was very happy with the race." Shirreffs said her next start will probably be in the John Mabee.
Celtic Princess won three of six starts as a 3-year-old in Brazil, including the group I Grande Premio Margarida Polak Lara-Taca de Prata en route to being named her country’s champion. She was shipped to the U.S. late in 2009 and missed by a neck in her North American debut in the My Charmer Stakes at Turfway Park.
Unplaced in three graded stakes last year, Celtic Princess ended her 2010 season with an optional claiming win on the Santa Anita turf in December. Overall, this was her sixth win from 15 starts and she upped her earnings to $330,624.
Sent off as the 8-5 favorite, Celtic Princess paid $5.40, $3, and $2.40. Harmonious paid $3.40 and $2.60, while Andina paid $3.40. The exacta (6-2) returned $16 and the trifecta (6-2-1) was worth $60.40.