Published in the Nov. 16 issue of The Blood-Horse
Sometimes, all it takes is time. Babae was a useful, but inconsistent, filly in her native Chile, winning a few minor stakes, but also turning in several poor efforts. After being sold to Joseph Platt Jr. in early 2000 and turned over to trainer Frank Alexander, she was a useful, but inconsistent, filly in America, winning a couple of allowance races, but also turning in several poor efforts. At the age of six, however, Babae has turned into a consistent, hard-knocking stakes winner. Her turnaround began with a victory in a division of the Athenia Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Belmont last fall, and a year later, on Nov. 9, she bookended a successful year with another victory in the Athenia, this time at Aqueduct. From Athenia to Athenia, the daughter of Barkerville won five of nine starts, with one third and two narrowly beaten fourths, with eight of those starts coming in stakes. In addition to her two victories in the 1 1/16-mile Athenia, she also captured the Just a Game Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Belmont, Violet Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Meadowlands, and the listed Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap at Philadelphia Park. Bred in Chile by Haras Carampangue, Babae raced 15 times in Chile, winning six, but finished out of the money seven times. She did, however, show sparks of class by placing in two group I stakes, including the Chilean One Thousand Guineas, while finishing fourth in the Chilean Derby. Platt's good friend, leading Chilean breeder Luigi d'Alessandri, told him Babae was for sale. Alexander went to Chile to see the filly, liked what he saw, and Platt purchased her for $150,000. The deal certainly didn't look like anything special, as Babae won only three of her first 12 starts in America, all in allowance company, while finishing out of the money six times. "She ran well, but she was a little speed crazy and rank," Alexander said. "We stopped on her and sent her home. When we got her back, we trained her differently, giving her long, slow gallops and slow works to try to get her to relax. She responded, and also matured with age, and now, she's a different filly." Babae's strength is her ability to lay close to any kind of pace. Last summer, she tracked in second behind fast fractions going a mile and drew off to win by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:33.41. She also sat off a fast pace in last year's Athenia and this year's Just a Game and Violet, but relaxed beautifully off a slow pace in the Penny Memorial. In this year's Athenia, she let 35-1 shot Shooting Party dawdle in front through slow fractions of :24.44 and :49.06, as jockey Jorge Chavez bided his time in second. Finally, Chavez let her go leaving the backstretch, and the 8-5 favorite opened a clear lead around the turn. The rest was just a formality. Although second-choice, Strawberry Blonde, under Jerry Bailey, came charging late along the inside, Babae was never in any danger, winning by three-quarters of a length in 1:44.90. Silver Rail, at 16-1, ran hard the whole way and hung tough for third over French invader Polygreen. For Chavez, it was his fourth consecutive victory in the Athenia. "Jorge knows her well, and when he gets to the front on her, she's very game," Alexander said. "She doesn't let anything get past her." Alexander said Babae will be pointed for the My Charmer (gr. IIIT) at Calder on Dec. 7 and "a race the first week of Gulfstream. "If everything goes right," he added, "we'll give her some time off and bring her back for the Beaugay (gr. IIIT) and start all over again. Who knows, she might even be better next year." B Pulling Up
Trainer Frank Alexander also sent out the favorite for the Nov. 5 Stuyvesant Handicap (gr. III) in Windsor Castle, but the 5-2 choice had to settle for second, as Berkshire Stud's Snake Mountain took advantage of a perfect rail trip under Jose Santos to win by a half-length in 1:50.56 for trainer Jimmy Jerkens. Windsor Castle, who lost ground going six-wide turning for home, closed well to get the place over Docent. Burning Roma, second choice at 3-1, tired badly to finish last of 10 starters.