Heiligbrodt Racing Stable's Lady Tak hit the stretch in front with jockey Jerry Bailey in the saddle and kicked away from Bird Town for a convincing 4 1/2-length victory in the $250,000 Test Stakes (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga Race Course Saturday.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Lady Tak turned the tables on Bird Town, a slight 8-5 favorite in the Test who won the Acorn (gr. I) at Belmont on June 6 by a head over Lady Tak. Bird Town won the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 2 in her start prior to the Acorn, with Lady Tak sixth.
Lady Tak, Florida-bred daughter of Mutakddim, ran the seven-furlong Test in a stakes record time 1:20 4/5 on a fast track, just one tick off the Saratoga track record. House Party emerging late to finish third, was six lengths behind the winner.
"We have thought for a long time that this race would be a good opportunity to show how good she can be," Asmussen said. "She was away smoothly, and Jerry (Bailey) gave her a great ride. Everything fell into place. Some of her previous races weren't all to her strengths.
"The Acorn was tough to lose because you only have so many opportunities to be a grade I filly," Asmussen said. "You only have to make sure that she is okay, re-group and take a little of the pressure off that we had on her in the mornings. This was our target for her for the year, and I couldn't be any happier for her."
Bird Town broke alertly on the lead but was soon taken back by Edgar Prado as longshot Molto Vita went to the front, holding off Lady Tak through a :22 3/5 opening quarter mile and a :45 1/5 half. Lady Taksurged to the lead running inside on the turn for home but looked like she would come under heavy pressure from Bird Town, Final Round and House Party at the top of the stretch. Instead, she spurted away and maintained a big edge while ridden with a vigorous hand over the final furlong.
"It was obvious I wasn't getting out, so I kept her inside and I used her enough to keep our position there," Bailey said. "She felt the part. She was there all the way around. She went when I wanted to go. She was very impressive."
This is the second straight Test victory for Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, who won this race last year with You. Bailey also won the Test with Fara's Team, (1988); Twist Afleet (1994); Chaposa Springs (1995); and Fabulously Fast (1997)
Trainer Nick Zito wasn't disappointed in Bird Town's race.
"We just ran into a better horse today, said Zito. "Hopefully, we'll have three good weeks and just go forward. Everything should be okay. We shouldn't have to do much off this race, just work her a couple of times easy. I know she can get the distance and hopefully, it works out. Edgar (Prado) rode her beautifully, we just ran into a filly who was unbelievable today. This is the fastest Test. We would have won most of the other ones."
Jose Santos, who rode House Party, said he was hoping for a faster pace.
"The scratch of Country Romance hurt us," said Santos. "Normally, the pace is a little faster in this race. I'm real impressed with the winner. My filly ran big, but we were third best."
Lady Tak ended a three-racing losing streak while earning $150,000 for her first grade I victory. She now boasts six wins and a pair of seconds in eight starts and earnings of $666,270. John Franks bred Lady Tak, who is out of the Lucky North mare Star of My Eye.
Sent off as the 2-1 second choice, the winner paid $6, $2.90 and $2.30. Bird Town returned $3 and $2.30. House Party showed for $2.70. The $2 exacta was worth $14.40.