By Robert Knolhoff Jr.
Published in the May 26 Blood-Horse
In the classic film Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn portrays a modern day princess who both resists her stringent obligations and yearns for the pedestrian pleasures of everyday life. In an effort to personify the players atop New York's current group of stakes fillies and mares, and Apple of Kent who is poised to join them, you wouldn't be taking great liberty by invoking the image of Hepburn's demure but spirited character into their respective profiles. Familiar names like blue-blooded stablemates Country Hideaway and Atelier, and the wonderful New York-bred Critical Eye do not lack for Hepburn-like grace of their own. However, each has slowly ascended the ladder to prominence with a decidedly blue collar mark of grit and determination, thus producing an uncanny string of close stakes finishes in recent months. All three were among the five contestants May 19 in the $200,000 Shuvee Handicap (gr. II). The Shuvee has been the early season coronation for such top distaffers as Life's Magic, Lady's Secret, Personal Ensign, and, most recently, Beautiful Pleasure. While the only thing certain before the 26th renewal was the promise of yet another hotly contested dash to the wire, the new face in the cast ordered a last minute rewrite. Just as the princess in Roman Holiday learned to accept her royal destiny, somewhere along the journey up from Fair Hill training center Juddmonte Farms' homebred Apple of Kent must have decided to do the same. Benefiting both from a cushioned pace beneath a consistently sharp Richard Migliore and a newly christened confidence in her stretch run, Apple of Kent powered ahead of a talented quartet to win by 3 3/4 lengths in 1:35.16 for the mile. With prior appearances at seven racecourses in three countries, the challenge for her connections entering the Shuvee was finding the ideal surface over which the 5-year-old mare might best thrive. "Someone was kind enough to pass along to me her Ragozin numbers," said trainer John Kimmel. "She was running eights on the turf and threes on the dirt. Time will tell how good she really is." A genuine movie storyline within the Shuvee was the harmonious union between Migliore and yet another Kimmel trained miss. Apple of Kent's front running tour-de-force was the Mig's third Shuvee triumph in five years aboard a filly from the winning barn, a distaff partnership evoking memories of Woody Stephens and Eddie Maple some years ago. "From being on her prior I knew she was capable of this kind of performance," said Migliore, the young meet's leading rider. "All of my praise goes toward the work of her whole team, but especially to her exercise rider Tracy Brown and Vinny DePaulo, at Fair Hill, where she trains over the wood chip surface. "She once had a little breathing problem, she's been known not to handle the heat very well and has gotten pretty rank on me in the past, but all of that is in the past. Everything today was perfect." A beautifully built dark bay daughter of Kris S. and Mr. Prospector's daughter Proflare, Apple of Kent possesses a look of strong purpose in both her stare and gallop. While relishing the tactical layout of a nearly paceless Shuvee, her sojourn was not without challenge. March Magic contested the lead early and often to Apple of Kent's inside through opening times of :24.11 and :47.34. Along Belmont's sweeping far turn, Edgar Prado and Atelier commenced what appeared to all in attendance a winning move, but after reaching even terms with Apple of Kent at the quarter pole in 1:11.43, could no longer match strides. Country Hideaway and Critical Eye appeared ready throughout to join the mix, but under Migliore's customary strong coaxing, Apple of Kent pulled away with purposeful strides through a closing quarter in :23.73. In a quietly impressive performance, March Magic rebuffed Country Hideaway in deep stretch to save second by a nose. "We were in a good rhythm early and my filly really powered through the stretch and finished with a lot left in the tank," continued Migliore. "Some of her earlier wins were easy and visually impressive, but she really wasn't galloping home strong in any of them, certainly not like we saw today." A few hundred yards away, Apple of Kent bucked playfully on her way through the tunnel leading to the backstretch. Once even under the dark shade of the detention barn, her brown coat gleamed through a diminishing layer of sweat atop her muscled physique. With each turn circling the shed, her thick neck craned toward a weathered feed tub, in which another splash of cool water awaited. Not once did her wise groom resist the strong pull. After all, a princess must always have her way. (Chart, Equibase)