Florida shipper Stay Forever, making her first start in three months, came from behind to edge fellow closer Super Brand by a half-length in the $500,000 WinStar Galaxy (gr. IIT) for fillies and mares on the Keeneland turf Sunday.
Ridden by Eddie Castro for trainer Martin Wolfson and owner/breeder Santa Cruz Ranch Inc., the lightly-raced 7-year-old Stack mare completed the 1 3/16-mile event in 1:57 on firm going. Pacesetter Shaconage held third by a nose over Dimitrova, who squeezed through on the inside to lead briefly at the eighth pole before giving way.
Stay Forever was last, five paths wide, while maintaining contact with the field through the opening half mile. She moved up on the far turn and was fifth while extremely wide with a three-sixteenths of a mile to go. When South African-bred Super Brand, who was stalking on the outside in fourth, turned up the pressure in the stretch for jockey Pat Day, Castro also got busy on Stay Forever. They overtook Super Brand on the far outside in the final strides.
Shaconage, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, held a half-length advantage early as she staked the lead through an opening quarter-mile in :25 1/5, the half in :50 and six furlongs in 1:14 2/5. Dimitrova, who shifted to the inside on the home turn for Rene Douglas, tracked in second all the way before coming up short as the narrow 5-2 second choice in the field of nine.
"The pace was slow, but it doesn't matter with her, she always gives her best in the stretch," Castro said of the winner. "Today it was enough to get the job done."
Day said he batted with the runner-up Super Brand all the way.
"From the time we left the gate, she was rank. She clipped heels, and when she did I thought that might make her want to settle, but she wouldn't. She was rank around the entire racecourse."
Still, he thought she earned a shot at the Breeders' Cup at Lone Star Park Oct. 30.
"It is solely up to Mr. (Kiaran) McLaughlin and Team Valor, but I thought she earned her chance maybe to run in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT)."
The favorite, Spice Island, also 5-2, tired after ranging into contention on the far turn and finished seventh.
Stay Forever notched her second graded stakes win of the year and her fourth victory overall in seven tries in 2004. After winning the Mint Julep Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs in May, she ran second to wonder Again in the New York Handicap (gr. IIT) at Belmont Park in her last start July 5.
She earned $310,000 for the victory to push her career bankroll to $910,399 with 10 wins in 17 lifetime outings.
Florida-bred Stay Forever is out of the Forever Sparkle mare Forever Lady.
She paid $18, $9.20 and$7. Super Brand returned $9.80 and $6.60, completing a $216 exacta. Shaconage's show was $6.40.
Alchemist was fifth, followed by Jacira, Spice Island, Bedanken and Lady Liberty.