Friendly Michelle takes Prioress in convincing style.

Friendly Michelle takes Prioress in convincing style.

Skip Dickstein

Friendly Michelle Popular Prioress Winner

Ed Friendly's favored Friendly Michelle got a perfect stalking trip with Corey Nakatani in the saddle and bounded away from speedy Forest Music in the stretch for a convincing win in the $250,000 Prioress (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park Saturday.

The Bob Baffert-trained daughter of ArtaxValiant Jewel (Buckley Boy), a $75,000 Fasig-Tipton sale in July 2002, scored her first grade I victory.

Friendly Michelle, who completed the six furlongs in 1:09, got just what she needed when Forest Music carved out quick fractions (:21 4/5, :44 2/5 and :56 1/5) with prompting from Miss Vegas early. Friendly Michelle, third on the outside improved her position on the turn as Miss Vegas fell back and challenged for the lead in upper stretch. She took control at the eighth pole and drew off to win by 2 1/4 lengths under mild urging.

Longshot Feline Story, ridden by Javier Castellano, came from off the pace to nose Forest Music for second.

"She broke well," Nakatani said. "She put me in the race really nice. She got underneath, and all I had to do was give her the proper key to go. She was very confident in what she was able to do. I let the other horse go up front, and I waited. When I asked her to run, she did, and we were moving pretty well. On these type of days, the track tends to play to speed and the speed carried. But she ran a great race."

Why You, She's a Mugs, Aspen Gal, Bending Strings, Bohemian Lady and Very Vegas completed the order of finish.

Friendly Michelle won for the third time in five starts this year. She registered her first graded victory in the La Troienne (gr. III) at Churchill Downs April 29. She followed that with a third-place showing in the one-mile Acorn (gr. I) at Belmont Park June 4. She cut back a quarter-mile in distance for Saturday's race.

After that race, Baffert hooked up Friendly Michelle with Tonja Terranova, a former West Coast Baffert assistant who moved east and married trainer John Terranova. Over the years, Tonja has frequently looked after Baffert runners in New York.

"She ran really well in the Acorn, and after the race, Bob decided to leave her in New York and train her specifically for this race," Tonja Terranova said. "We breezed her twice since the Acorn and we were really impressed with her. We're very excited and she is going right up to Saratoga for the Test (gr. I). I thought she was very impressive today."

The $250,000 Test is for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs at Saratoga Race Course July 31.

Overall, Friendly Michelle is 5-0-2 in eight lifetime starts. The winner's share of $150,000 pushed her career earnings to $386,794.

The 8-5 favorite in a field of nine, she paid $5.70, $3.40 and $2.80. Feline Story returned $14 and $8.40. Forest Music was $5.20 to show. The exacta was worth $87.50.

(Chart, Equibase)