Bettors could see only Eclipse Award winner She Be Wild, but it was 9-1 shot Bickersons that destroyed the field in the $150,000 Forward Gal Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO) at Gulfstream Park Jan. 31.
With Joe Bravo aboard for trainer Kelly Breen, Bickersons shook clear of early pacesetter Richiegirlgonewild on the turn and was never threatened in the lane as she scored an easy seven-length victory in the seven-furlong Forward Gal, an early-season test for 3-year-old fillies.
She Be Wild, winner of the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) en route to end-of-year championship honors, tired in the homestretch after rallying four wide on the turn. She finished fifth, nearly 10 lengths behind the winner as the 7-5 favorite in the field of 11. She Be Wild was making her natural dirt debut after winning four of five starts on synthetic tracks last year.
“She took to the dirt well, and I got a good trip, but the distance was too short for her,” jockey Julien Leparoux said of She Be Wild.
Joanie's Catch, off at odds of 51-1, rallied for second with Paco Lopez riding and completed a $682.40 exacta. Liam's Dream, Jeremy Rose aboard, finished third, 1 1/2 lengths behind the runner-up. The final time was a solid 1:22.35 over a fast track.
Bickersons was up the track when 10th in the 1 1/16-mile BC Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita Nov. 6, but returned to a more comfortable one-turn distance, she bounced back from that disappointment to win the seven-furlong Moccasin Stakes at Hollywood Park two weeks later. In her most recent effort, the Silver Deputy filly ran fifth in the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I). Bickersons is now two-for-three at seven-eighths of a mile, her lone defeat coming in a third-place finish in Saratoga's Spinaway (gr. I) in September.
“We took her all over last year, to California, and ran in the big races," Breen said. "I think we found out that she could do well around two turns in the right company, but not necessarily against the best. Seven-eighths is probably her best game and maybe she can go a one-turn mile.”
Breaking from the outside, Bickersons left the gate in front in the Forward Gal but took back to second as Richiegirlgonewild hustled her way to the front through quarter-mile splits of :22.62 and :45.24. Bickersons, always in contention, swept past the tiring front-runner as they reached the half-mile mark and turned it on through the lane, winning easily while ridden out by Bravo.
“That was really an eye-opener," Bravo said. "Let’s put it like this; you’ve got the Breeders’ Cup winner and a full field, and our filly destroys a field like that. It makes us feel so good going forward with her. She’s been showing it all along in the mornings. Kelly has some real nice fillies in his barn, and she has been showing her colors with them. She has some little quirks, but Kelly has done a great job putting in a lot of time with her. In any other barn I don’t think she would have made it this far. I give him all the credit.”
Bickersons improved her career mark to 3-0-2 in eight starts with earnings of $247,285. The Forward Gal victory was worth $90,000 to owners Lori and George Hall.
Bred in Ontario, Canada, by Robert G. Harvey, Bickersons was an $80,000 yearling sale at Keeneland in September 2008. The dark bay or brown filly is out of the Paramount Jet mare Dancehall Floozy.
Sent off as the fourth choice, Bickersons carried 116 pounds, six fewer than She Be Wild, and paid $21, $10.40 and $6.40. Joanie's Catch, second-place finisher in the Old Hat Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream at odds of 48-1 three weeks ago for trainer Barry Rose, returned $30.20 and $13. Liam's Dream, undefeated in two prior starts at Philadelphia Park for trainer Anthony Dutrow last year, was $8 to show.
Romantic Hideaway, who stalked the pace, edged She Be Wild by a head for fourth. Then came second choice Ailalea, Criolla Bonita, Sister Resistor, Richiegirlgonewild, Cascading and Si Senora. Carphonic and Touching Beauty scratched.