She had not won a race in four starts, going back to Oct. 2, 2004. But Saturday afternoon, Fox Ridge Farm's 6-year-old Riskaverse woke up at Belmont Park at odds of 35-1 to win the $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT) for fillies and mares at 10 furlongs on the inner turf course.Not only did the 6-year-old mare become the first back-to-back winner of the Flower Bowl, but she did it at the expense of her old nemesis, the 6-year-old Wonder Again, beating her by a head in 2:00 1/5. Jose Santos was in the saddle."She loves Belmont," where she has won five times on the turf, said trainer Pat Kelly. She finished eighth in the Ballston Spa Handicap (gr. IIIT) in her last start at Saratoga Aug. 29."We've been playing catch-up all summer. She trained really well since the race at Saratoga. She hurt her ankle in the New York Handicap. We had to back off her and start all over again. Usually, she has five or six races under her belt now, and she gets better in the fall. "She's the best filly I've ever had. I'm glad she bounced back and showed everyone who she is."Kelly said his goal is to return to the $1 million Emirates Airline Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) Oct. 29 at Belmont. Risakaverse ran eighth in last year's race at Lone Star Park.
"The seam opened up, and (Santos) took advantage of it," Kelly said. "Our old friend, Wonder Again, was second. It seems like they've been going at it since they were two."Wonder Again was third in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf last year, beaten 1 3/4 lengths for it all by Ouija Board, with Film Maker second. She also loves Belmont Park, where she has a 4-3-2 record from 11 turf starts for trainer Jimmy Toner. "She ran great, but what are you going to do," asked Toner. "I guess the only thing you can say is that nice people won it. It's a tribute to what a marvelous job Pat has done with this filly. I know he's had his hands full with her all year. We're getting closer, and we have one more to go. So, we're not finished yet."Both Wonder Again and Riskaverse will be retired after the Breeders' Cup.The fans backed Melhor Ainda and their second choice in the Flower Bowl was Sand Springs, who took the role of pacesetter and set fractions of :27 3/5; :48 2/5; 1:12 1/5 and 1:36 1/5 on the good going.Santos, meanwhile, stalked from third, but stayed inside and rated for three-quarters of a mile. When he found the seam he wanted in deep stretch, he called on Riskaverse - who remembered what to do in the Flower Bowl."I loved my trip," Santos said. "I was very patient. I tried to get between the rail and (Sand Springs) but (Jerry) Bailey had control of the filly. I decided to step out a little bit. She was very game."Film Maker - whose jockey, Todd Kabel, couldn't make it and was replaced by Patrick Valenzuela - was a length back in third, and Sand Spring was three-quarters of a length back in fourth. Sundrop, Lune d'Or, Melhor Ainda, Secret Charm, and Angara completed the order of finish, but Melhor Ainda was the race's disappointment. Her undefeated streak at Belmont Park came to an end with the worst finish of her seven-race career."She didn't break again," said jockey John Velazquez. "I should have just dropped her in. She was relaxing well behind horses. When she got to the turn, another horse hit her and pushed her to the outside. That made her rank. I didn't want to keep taking a hold of her, so I let her run on the backstretch. I got a chance to sit again on her, but she just didn't have it in the stretch." Riskaverse paid $73.50, $22.20, and $9.70, topping a $370.50 exacta with Wonder Again ($7.10, $5.20). Film Maker was $4.40 to show.