Game Face rebounded from a disappointing effort last out by romping to a 6 3/4-length score in the $350,000 Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I) (VIDEO) July 11 at Calder Race Course. As part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” series, the victory earned the filly an automatic berth in the Sentient Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Nov. 6 at Santa Anita Park.
Though a multiple graded stakes winner coming into the race, Game Face notched her first grade I victory in the six-furlong Princess Rooney, which was the co-feature on Calder’s Summit of Speed program. The 4-year-old daughter of Menifee had been off the board in her last two starts, including a surprising fifth-place finish in the May 24 Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont.
Keep the Peace was the one to catch in the Rooney, as the Touch Gold filly broke well from post 7 and got the opening quarter-mile in :22.04. Jessica is Back was right on her heels in the early going, but stumbled badly after bumping with the leader and dropped back.
Third in the Winning Colors (gr. III) last out, Keep the Peace continued to lead on the backstretch, but Game Face inched closer from a three-wide position under Edgar Prado and took over as they rounded the turn. She was ahead by 1 1/2-lengths at the top of the stretch and extended her advantage with every stride.
The final time on a ‘fast’ main track was 1:10.74. Runner-up Keep the Peace was 1 1/4 lengths better than 39-1 Orinoquia.
“This was the first time that I rode this filly and she seemed to respond to me pretty well,” Prado said. “The first thing that I noticed about her was that she wanted to run a bit too early, but she rated for me and it was all about finishing strong from there.”
Game Face, trained by Todd Pletcher, was sent off as the 9-5 favorite in part due to the scratch of two-time champion Indian Blessing earlier in the week. Marina Ballerina was also scratched the morning of the race.
Winner of the Old Hat (gr. III) and La Troienne (gr. III) last year, and the First Lady (gr. III) and Inside Information (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park this season, Game Face notched her seventh victory in 14 starts. She has now earned $689,348 for Zabeel Racing International. The chestnut filly was bred in Kentucky by Marilyn Seltzer and is out of the Gone West mare Galleon of Gold.
Game Face paid $5.60, $3.60, and $2.80. The exacta (6-7) returned $31.60 and the trifecta (6-7-2) was $392.40.
Pious Ashley was fourth, followed by B R’s Girl, Jessica is Back, and Dubai Majesty.