French Park Charges Late to Win Golden Rod

Stevestan Stable's favored French Park remained undefeated in three starts with a well-timed victory over She Says It Best in the $222,200 Golden Rod (gr. II) for 2-year-old fillies Saturday at Churchill Downs.

With Mark Guidry aboard, the 17-10 choice overcame some early bumping, responding to strong encouragement in deep stretch, to record a three-quarters of a length win over She Says It Best, who had a three-length lead inside the final furlong but failed to last under Eddie Martin Jr. The final time was 1:47 1/5 for the 1 1/16-mile test on a fast track.

"She never gave up, just never gave up," said Guidry, who earned a share of the Churchill Downs' fall meet riding title with the win. "The last eighth of a mile, (She Says It Best) started coming back to me pretty good, and I was just trying to measure the wire. I said, 'I think we got it, I think we got it.' Well, we got it. She's a real gutsy filly."

Helen Pitts trains the winner, a daughter of Ecton Park who sold for $75,000 as a yearling in July 2004. Coming off a 1 3/4-length in the one-mile Pocahontas (gr. III) three weeks ago at Churchill and a 12 1/4-length romp in her maiden debut at Keeneland Oct. 20, the gray/roan filly has amassed earnings of $243,761 for Steve and Stan Kaplan.

"Down the backside I was a little worried that she took herself out of it," said Pitts. "If she's got something in front of her and she clocks it, she wants to catch it. That's her and that's the way she is, but I guess that's what makes her as special as she is. She's about as good as they come."

She Says It Best dueled for the early lead with Beau Dare, who was hustled to the lead by Rafael Bejarano and completed the first quarter-mile in :23 3/5. After angling in going into the clubhouse turn, She Says It Best pressed the leader while three or four wide on the backstretch, gaining the lead after a half-mile in :47 1/5. She continued to lead after six furlongs in 1:12 1/5 and cleared away in the stretch.

After her early trouble, French Park fell back to sixth in the eight-horse field, inching up on the far turn. She launched her bid in the stretch while wide out and got to the leader just in time.

French Park became the first filly to sweep Churchill's fall meet stakes races for 2-year-old fillies – the Pocahontas and the Golden Rod – since trainer Carl Bowman saddled At the Half to win both races in 1993. The stakes victory was the fourth of the meet for Guidry, who also piloted French Park to victory in the Pocahontas.

Lady Danza finished third, more than three lengths behind the winner, followed by the closing Giant Commander, Beau Dare, Magnificent Song, Tiztimetokinect, and Dance Daily, who stumbled at the break. Trainer Patrick Biancone scratched Sabatini, costing retiring jockey Gary Stevens his last stakes opportunity.

Marvin Delfiner bred French Park, who is out of Alarming Prospect, by Darn That Alarm, in Kentucky.

She paid $5.40, $3 and $2.80. She Says It Best, who won the Darley Alciabades (gr. II) in October before finishing ninth in the Alberto VO5 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) in her last start, returned $4.20 and $3.20. Lady Danza, who added blinkers Saturday, was $6.20 to show.

(Chart, Equibase)