Game Face (inside) holds off a determined Keep the Peace in the La Troienne Stakes (gr. III).

Game Face (inside) holds off a determined Keep the Peace in the La Troienne Stakes (gr. III).

Alexander Barkoff

Game Face Takes La Troienne By a Neck

Game Face holds off a determined Keep the Peace in the La Troienne Stakes (gr. III).

Favored Game Face held off a determined Keep the Peace by a neck to capture the $168,450 La Troienne Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs May 3.

Ridden by John Velazquez, Game Face covered the 7 1/2 furlongs in a quick 1:28.44 on a fast track while scoring the third victory in her six-race career. The track was listed as fast despite overnight rains in the Louisville area.

Velazquez made it back-to-back stakes wins on the Churchill Derby Day program after earlier capturing the Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II) in front-running style with Elite Squadron.

“I sat right behind the two speed horses and bided my time," Velazquez said. "I was hoping to get some room to get out of there. I just happened to get room along the inside, and she ran very well in it. The race was supposed to set up for me because of the speed. You hope those things come out the way you want. But today it just happened to work out good.”

Game Face came into the La Troienne off a runner-up finish to Bsharpsonata in the March 2 Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park. Owned by Sheikh Rashid’s Zabeel Racing International and trained by Todd Pletcher, the daughter of Menifee scored by seven lengths in the Old Hat Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream earlier this year.

“We kind of targeted this race right after the Davona Dale," Pletcher said. "We felt she didn’t come out of that race great and gave her some time.”

Secret Gypsy led early in the La Troienne, setting brisk fractions of :22.61 and :44.96 while being pressed by Keep the Peace. But Secret Gypsy swung out wide in the turn while Game Face challenged on her inside and Keep the Peace accelerated on the outside. Secret Gypsy couldn’t withstand the pressure and faded to fifth, leaving her rivals to the battle for the lead. Game Face surged to front inside the sixteenth pole and prevailed after a long drive.

“That was more us trying to play the racetrack," Pletcher said of the decision to keep Game Face close to the pace. "Early on, it looked like you didn’t want to be too far back.

Sent off as the 9-5 choice in the field of seven, Game Face carried top weight of 120 pounds to victory and paid $5.60, $3.20, and $2.60.

Keep the Peace, ridden by Edgar Prado, returned $4.40 and $3.40, while Tiz to Dream, Javier Castellano aboard, rallied from next-to-last down the backstretch to finish a nose ahead of Alina. paying $4.20 to show.

“She was game," Prado said of the runner-up. "She tried hard all the way. You have to like it when they give you an effort like that. She couldn’t win today, but I am very happy with the way she tried.”

Alina was followed by Secret Gypsy, Minewander and Color Me Up. American County and Informed Decision scratched.

Pletcher said the Acorn (gr. I), a one-turn mile test on Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park June 7, is the next goal for Game Face.

The victory was worth $102,352 and raised Game Face’s career bankroll to $238,352 with a record of 6-3-2-1. Bred in Kentucky by Marilyn F. Seltzer, Game Face is by Menifee and out of the Gone West mare Galleon of Gold.

(Chart, Equibase)