Just over a year after Game Face earned her first graded stakes victory at Gulfstream, the Menifee filly collected another blacktype win at the South Florida racetrack, as she rallied under John Velazquez to score by 2 3/4 lengths in the First Lady Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO).
Caught in tight at the start of the six-furlong contest for older fillies and mares, Game Face chased pacesetter Any Limit from a four-wide position, took over at the top of the lane, and cruised home for her third graded stakes victory. The 7-5 favorite’s final time on a ‘fast’ main track was 1:10.57.
The winning 4-year-old chestnut is owned by Zabeel Racing and trained by Todd Pletcher.
"The field went off fast and I just stayed back waiting for my chance," said Velazquez, who guided Game Face to her win in the grade III Old Hat at Gulfstream last January. "I let them go because I knew sooner or later she was going to respond. She loves races like this – coming off the pace. When I really asked her to give me more around the turn, she did the rest.”
Joseph Shields Jr.’s Any Limit, who set aggressive opening fractions of :22.63 and :45.69, did her best to try to keep pace with Game Face in the stretch but had to settle for second under Cornelio Velazquez. She was three parts of a length in front of third-place, Slewfoundmoney, the second choice.
Game Face entered the First Lady off a narrow victory in optional claiming company Nov. 15 in the slop at Churchill Downs. Two starts prior to that she won the La Troienne Stakes (gr. III) by a neck May 3 in Louisville.
Bred in Kentucky by Marilyn Seltzer out of the Gone West mare Galleon of Gold, Game Face is 5-2-2 from nine lifetime starts. She has $353,854 in earnings.
"We’ve been looking forward to running her in this race for some time," Pletcher said. "We knew from last year that she loves the track. I was a little concerned when she got pinched back a little at the break, but she was able to get clear on outside and ran her race.
"We’ll look at the next one (Hurricane Bertie, Feb. 15). I think this (sprinting) is her best game and we’ll look at races up to a mile for her.”
The winner paid $4.80, $3.20, and $2.20. The exacta (4-5) returned $19.60, while the $1 trifecta (4-5-1) was worth $22.40.