Giants Play took advantage of an unpressured lead in the early going and had just enough to hold off Zagora to notch her first stakes victory in the $150,000 New York Stakes (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) June 25 at Belmont Park.
With Rajiv Maragh aboard for trainer Christophe Clement, Giants Play built an uncontested lead through easy fractions and was able to withstand a late charge by Zagora to win by a head in the 1 1/4–mile turf race. The final time on the firm going was 2:04.76. Hibaayeb, the 7-5 favorite, settled for third.
Owned by Newells Park Stud, Giants Play had been graded stakes placed in her last two starts and had hit the board in all three of her tries this season since shipping over from England. The 4-year-old daughter of Giant's Causeway won for second time in 11 career starts.
She was bred in Kentucky by Swettenham Stud and was an $850,000 Keeneland September 2008 yearling sale purchase.
Giants Play was allowed to set easy fractions against her five rivals, taking them through splits of :26.34, :52.99, 1:17.64, and 1:41.43. Hibaayeb, who defeated Giants Play by a length last out in the May 28 Sheepshead Bay (gr. IIT) at Belmont, was stalking in second the whole way and was just off her rival when they hit the quarter-pole and turned for home.
But Giants Play’s biggest threat was Zagora, who was near the back for most of the way before launching her outside bid under Ramon Dominguez. Giants Play had a 1 1/2-length advantage at the top of the stretch and needed every bit of it to hold off a charging Zagora in the final yards.
“Mr. Clement and his team did a great job to try and get her to settle," Maragh said. "She was a lot more relaxed today and it helped me do my job better. I felt like we were going slow, but my main thing was to try to get her to settle. It was the key to getting the best out of her, so that’s what I did. I wasn’t worried about the fractions at all. The race was lacking speed, so I just inherited the lead.”
Prior to the New York, Giants Play’s only victory came last September on the Kempton Polytrack. Though she has had a hard time finding the winners circle, the bay filly had failed to hit the board just twice in her career, producing a 2-2-5 mark from her 11 starts. Out of the Sadler's Wells mare Playful Act, she has now earned $155,949.
“Rajiv gave her a great ride," Clement said. "She is an improving filly. Very well bred, so to win a graded stakes was a goal this year. She’s done it. Where do we go next? I don’t have a clue. Let’s enjoy it. It is a big deal. It’s an amazing pedigree, and she’s obviously a very valuable mare.