Claiborne Farm's 5-year-old mare Wend kicked off her 2006 season with an impressive win in the $100,000 Honey Fox Handicap (gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares on the Gulfstream Park turf Saturday.
The even-money favorite in the field of eight, Wend, ridden by Edgar Prado, led for most of the journey and kicked away from her rivals at the top of the lane. She held off the Argentine-bred Brunilda safe for a one-length win in an excellent time of 1:38 1/5 for the 1 1/16-mile distance on firm going. The time was one tick off the track mark on the new Gulfstream grass course.
"She was in control of the race from the beginning," Prado said. "It was great for her first start back. She had run against Intercontinental and Wonder Again (last year)."
Bill Mott trains Wend, a homebred daughter of Pulpit
out of the Topsider mare Thread, who won five races in a row last season and had been freshened since a sixth-place finish in the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) at Belmont Park Oct. 29. She won the New York Handicap (gr. IIT) at Belmont last summer during her winning streak.
"I wasn't surprised that she ran well," Mott said of Wend, who has run well fresh on several occasions during her career.
Wend was away alertly Saturday while challenged early by Darluna. Wend got the lead going into the clubhouse turn on the inside and led through solid fractions of :23 1/5, :46 2/5 and 1:09 2/5. She got away from the pack coming off the far turn as Darluna tired and Brunilda, racing a close-up third along the rail, took up the chase. The 6-year-old Brunilda, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, drew within less than a length in the stretch but could get no closer. It was 1 1/2 lengths back to Honey Ryder and John Velazquez, who ranged into contention on the outside in the stretch. High Court finished fourth.
Wend, who paid $4.20, $3.20, and $2.60, has now won six of 10 career starts with earnings of $444,350. Brunilda returned $7 and $4.20, comleting a $24 exacta. Honey Ryder, the 2-1 second choice, was $2.80 to show.
After High Court came Ambitious Cat, Eyes On Eddy, and Darluna.