Que Puntual Overcomes All in Taking Nassau

(from Woodbine report)
Earle Mack's Que Puntual survived a rough trip and two claims of foul to win the featured $357,200 Nassau Stakes (Can-II) for fillies and mares on the turf Saturday at Woodbine.

With Cornelio Velasquez aboard the 2-1 favorite, Que Puntual took aim on the leader With Patience turning for home, then edged away to a half-length score in the 1 1/16-mile contest timed in 1:41.96 over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course. Longshot Ambitious Cat rallied well on the outside to snare the place award, while Mona Rose nipped My Lordship for show.

The 5-year-old Argentine-bred mare almost didn't get a chance to strut her stuff as the field bunched up approaching the far turn. Tucked in behind the front runners but in tight company with several others, Velasquez suddenly had to snatch his mare's head back to keep from clipping the heels of the leaders, then bumped with a few others and dropped back several lengths. However, Que Puntual quickly regained stride, split horses entering the stretch and set sail for the leader, winning impressively.

After the race, the jockeys on third-place finisher Mona Rosa (Todd Kabel) and sixth-place finisher Noble Stella (Gerry Olguin) claimed foul against the winner, but the stewards disallowed the claim after a brief review.

"Thank God I didn't see what happened," said trainer Angel Penna Jr., about the close call on the far turn. "I was watching the race. And she was close enough. And all of a sudden she dropped back, and I did not see why. Now, after (watching) the replay, it makes me feel a lot better. I think it was an even better race. She just won it and maybe, without that incident, she would have done even a little bit better."

Que Puntual came into the Nassau off an impressive allowance score at Keeneland in April, her second win in four starts in North America, after taking a year off from the races in her homeland. She'd won her Florida debut at Calder in December then was fourth and second at Gulfstream Park before her smashing Keeneland performance.

Penna said Que Puntual had problems with the tight turns and short stretch at Gulfstream.

"This is a very big filly," he said. "The stride is humungous and she needs a little room to move, to get in gear. Gulfstream did not give her that room. Finally at Keeneland, with the long stretch, she really blossomed. She's a good filly. I wanted to see how she'd do against stakes winners. Now I have to evaluate after the race and make a plan for her."

Que Puntual, who picked up a pot of $209,340, rewarded her backers with a $6.10, $4.10 and $3.20 payoff, combining with 13-1 Ambitious Cat ($10.10, $5.80) for an $82.40 exacta. Mona Rose, $5.60 to show, completed a trifecta worth $475.20.

(Chart, Equibase)