Four grade I winners -- Diamondrella, Flashing, Game Face, and Informed Decision -- are part of an overflow field entered for the $400,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters (gr. III) on tap Sept. 12 in Erie, Pa.
The 6 1/2-furlong sprint for fillies and mares over Presque Isle Downs' Tapeta Footings racing surface also attracted graded winners Bear Now, Dubai Majesty, and Porte Bonheur. This is the first year that the Masters has been a graded event.
Godolphin's Flashing, a 3-year-old daughter of A. P. Indy, won Saratoga's prestigious Test Stakes (gr. I) in her most recent start but faces an arduous challenge against older females for the first time in the Masters, which is the highlight of the Presque Isle Downs racing season. This will also be her first race on an all-weather course.
But Flashing, a 1 1/2-length winner over seven others in her age group Aug. 8, appears to be up to the task. She has won five of seven career starts (including four of six this year) with earnings of $412,560.
“It’s always tougher when you take a three-year-old and race her against older competitors,” said Rick Mettee, who is the assistant U.S. trainer for Godolphin's lead conditioner, Saeed bin Suroor. “We’ll be asking Flashing to take a big step forward. But if she handles the challenge and really runs big, we’ll have to be thinking about the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in early November. We have walked her over the Polytrack surface that Greentree Stable has in Saratoga Springs."
The $1-million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint will be run at seven furlongs Nov. 6 at Santa Anita.
Godolphin is a nom de course for the Maktoum family of Dubai. Flashing was bred in Kentucky by another division of the Maktoum empire, Gainsborough Farm, and is out of the Machiavellian mare Morning Pride. The stable has taken its time with her development. She broke her maiden in November at Aqueduct and she continued her education at the New York track this winter and spring, winning two of three starts, both allowance races.
Flashing won the Nassau County (gr. III) on a muddy track at Belmont Park May 2 before running into the buzz saw that is Rachel Alexandra in the Mother Goose (gr. I). After a 31-length waxing June 27, she bounced back nicely to score in the Test, a race in which she showed the ability to rate before sweeping clear in the stretch run. The time, 1:22.40, was a good one. Richard Migliore, who rode the chestnut for the first time in the Test, has the call again and they will break from post 3 with 121 pounds.
Castletop Stable's Great Britain-bred Diamondrella brings a six-race winning streak into the Masters, capped by her 1 3/4-length victory in the Just A Game (gr. IT) on a yielding Belmont turf in her most recent start June 6. Trainer Angel Penna Jr. skipped the Saratoga meet with her.
Penna Jr. knows that the 5-year-old daughter of Rock of Gibraltar is a splendid racehorse. “She’s the type you always dream about,” he said.
Diamondrella counts three other stakes scores during a winning streak that began in June of last year, all on the turf. The one-mile Just A Game was her first in a graded race, though, and she won the one-turn event at odds of 9-1.
Overall, Diamondrella now sports a career record of 15 starts, seven victories, three placings, and purse earnings of $538,576. Diamondrella has yet to compete on a synthetic surface.
“I know she’s a great sprinter, I know she’s a grass runner,” said Penna. “The theory is that grass horses take well to synthetic tracks. I think this should be the case for Diamondrella. At Presque Isle we’re going to find out.”
In the back of Penna’s mind, of course, is the BC Filly & Mare Sprint. He wants to keep his late-running sprinter at one-turn distances, he said. In the Just a Game, she was in seventh position through the opening half-mile, then swung six-wide and was drawing away at the wire.
“We gave her a little time off, a breather (after that),” said Penna.
She breezed four furlongs over the turf at Saratoga in :47 2/5 Sept. 7. Penna plans to van Diamondrella to Presque Isle Downs Sept. 10. Rajiv Maragh, who has piloted her throughout her win streak, has the return mount. They'll leave from gate 2 with co-high weight of 123 pounds.
Augustin Stable's 4-year-old Informed Decision has won all four of her starts on synthetic surfaces since the spring of 2008, including a triumph in Keeneland's Madison (gr. I) in April for trainer Jonathan Sheppard. That was part of a five-race win streak that ended on a sloppy track at Saratoga Aug. 29 when she finished third in a field of five in the Ballerina (gr. I). The gray/roan daughter of Monarchos has captured eight of her 11 starts overall while earning $841,617.
Julien Leparoux, who guided the filly to victories in the Humana Distaff (gr. I) and Chicago Handicap (gr. III) prior to the Ballerina, has the call.
Game Face, trained by Todd Pletcher for Zabeel Racing International, capped a great Florida campaign this year with a 6 3/4-length romp in the Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I) at Calder Race Course July 11. She returned one month ago to win Saratoga's Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II) by 1 1/2 lengths Aug. 9. Like several of the top contenders here, her inexperience on all-weather tracks will be at issue.
Edgar Prado, who was aboard the 4-year-old daughter of Menifee in her two latest victories, has the return engagement. Game Face has won eight of 15 starts and $779,348 in her career.
The multiple graded stakes winner Porte Bonheur, from the David Duggan stable, won Belmont's First Flight Handicap (gr. II) by a nose June 28 and returned to run a troubled fourth in the Honorable Miss. She won her only start on a synthetic track, taking Woodbine's Ontario Fashion on Polytrack in November.
Dubai Majesty, winner of Churchill Downs' Winning Colors (gr. III) in May, was given a breather by trainer Bret Calhoun after she faded to last in the Princess Rooney last time out.
Bear Now won the Kentucky Cup Distaff (gr. III) on the Turway Park Polytrack nearly a year ago for trainer Albert Stall Jr. and she is well-proven on Woodbine's synthetic surface as well. She has won nine of 25 starts and is the field's only million-dollar earner with $1,148,745. She carries a feathery 112 pounds in the Masters.
$400,00 Presque Isle Downs Masters (gr. III, Race 7, 8 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 6 1/2 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Nicks (IL), I Ocampo, 115, C K Janks
2. Diamondrella (GB), R Maragh, 123, A J Penna, Jr.
3. Flashing (KY), R Migliore, 121, S bin Suroor
4. Game Face (KY), E S Prado, 123, T A Pletcher
5. Bear Now (KY), J Theriot, 112, A M Stall, Jr.
6. Porte Bonheur (KY), C Hill, 123, D P Duggan
7. Sweet Lorena NY), D Carr, 115, M S Ferraro
8. Tequilas Dayjur (KY), T D Houghton, 115, J R Jackson
9. Informed Decision (KY), J R Leparoux, 123, J E Sheppard
10. Beautiful Venue (KY), R A Stokes, III, 115, B Beagle
11. Dubai Majesty (FL), M Mena, 123, W B Calhoun
12. Rollicking Affair (VA), G Suarez, 112, C Progno
13. Old Time Religion (KY), H Villa-Gomez, 110, G S Wismer
14. Premier Roma (FL), L A Gonzalez, 110, G S Bennett