In Gazelle Surprise, Lear's Princess (left) hands Rags to Riches her first defeat since her debut.

In Gazelle Surprise, Lear's Princess (left) hands Rags to Riches her first defeat since her debut.

Skip Dickstein

Lear's Princess Dethrones Queen 'Rags in Gazelle

Lear's Princess won the Gazelle Stakes at Belmont Park.

by Karen M. Johnson

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin thought if there was going to be a day to beat Rags to Riches, it was at Belmont Park in the Gazelle (gr. I) (VIDEO) Sept. 15.

McLaughlin was correct.  His filly, Lear’s Princess, handed Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Rags to Riches the first loss of her career since her racing debut in June 2006.

Rags to Riches, the 2-5 favorite, was a very game second in the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies, her first race since winning the Belmont June 9.

Lear’s Princess, ridden by Eibar Coa, defeated Rags to Riches by a half-length. Tough Tiz’s Sis was third, two lengths behind Rags to Riches. Dorm Fever and Le Chateau completed the order of finish in the $250,000 Gazelle.

The winner, who carried 115 pounds, seven fewer than Rags to Riches, returned $6.20 as the second choice. The final time was 1:47 4/5 over a fast track.

Todd Pletcher, trainer of Rags to Riches, was philosophical about the loss. He referred to the missed works and fevers that kept the filly away from the races since the Belmont and indicated those missteps had an impact in the Gazelle.

“[That] hurt us inside the 16th pole,” Pletcher said. “The filly got beat a neck, giving (Lear’s Princess) seven pounds, and she hasn’t run in three months. I would never be discouraged with the filly. I still think she is the best 3-year-old filly in the country. I think she is one of the best we have seen in a long time.”

Pletcher said he will focus on getting the filly ready for the $2-million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Monmouth Park Oct. 27.

Rags to Riches, ridden by John Velazquez, stalked the pace, set by Dorm Fever and Tough Tiz’s Sis. While racing on the outside in third position, Rags to Riches came on even terms with the early leaders at the top of the stretch.  With a furlong remaining, Rags to Riches had a half-length advantage over Lear’s Princess, who had come four-wide at the top of the lane and battled with Rags to Riches through the stretch.

Lear’s Princess, a daughter of Lear Fan, raced with blinkers for the first time.

“The addition of blinkers might have made a difference,” said McLaughlin, who trains Lear’s Princess for Terry Finley’s West Point Thoroughbreds.

McLaughlin said he thought it was going to be difficult to outrun Rags to Riches when the favorite was running so freely during the early stages of the Gazelle.

“I thought she would be tough to beat when she was laying that close and looking so comfortable,” McLaughlin said.

The Gazelle winner will run next in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Lear’s Princess’ record is 4-2-0 in six starts, with earnings of $429,100.

(Chart, Equibase)