Last of nine early, Venus Valentine rallied along the rail in the stretch to pull off a 74-1 shocker in the $200,000 Twinspires.com Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 20 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Early in the stretch of the 1 1/16-mile Rachel Alexandra for 3-year-old fillies, Midnight On Oconee put away a wide challenge from 3-5 favorite Stageplay and opened a clear lead. But Venus Valentine continued a steady rally along the rail under Corey Lanerie to take the lead in deep stretch and secure a one-length win.
Midnight On Oconee held second while Shaken finished third followed by Royal Obsession. Silverbulletday Stakes winner Stageplay faded to sixth in the Road to the Kentucky Oaks race that awards qualifying points on a 50-20-10-5 schedule.
After winning her maiden race debut in July at Ellis Park, Rosemont Farm homebred Venus Valentine had not placed in her next three starts, finishing fourth in the Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes on the Polytrack at Arlington Park, fifth in an allowance-optional claiming race on a sloppy dirt track at Fair Grounds and then fourth in her seasonal debut in an allowance-optional claiming race on the Fair Grounds turf Jan. 8
That turf start marked the first two-turn race for Venus Valentine, who worked steadily after that seasonal debut in preparing for Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile test. The daughter of Congrats delivered a very promising breeze Feb. 8 at Fair Grounds, completing a half-mile in :48 3/5.
Trainer Tom Amoss said Venus Valentine showed talent from the start and has put some problems behind her.
“She’s been a bit of a guessing game. She won her first start for us and we knew she had great raw talent. She was tying up and cramping up a lot muscle-wise,” Amoss said. “We solved this problem … we felt she had a real chance based on how she was coming into the race.”
Lanerie, who earlier on the card guided Majestic Harbor to a front-running victory in the Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III), found success with a different approach in the Rachel Alexandra as Venus Valentine was last and still more than 10 lengths back through six furlongs in 1:11.91. But Venus Valentine would cut the corner well and sustain her rally through the long stretch, completing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.24 on a fast track.
"They told me she was a longshot today but she was doing really good and to just let her run her race," Lanerie said.
That rally was set up, in part, by an early duel between Lovable Lyss and Finley'sluckycharm through a half-mile in :46.33. Midnight On Oconee would improve position in the turn, as would Stageplay, who was racing four-wide. But Venus Valentine would prove best late.
Venus Valentine returned $150.40 to win, $37 to place, and $16.60 to show, while Midnight On Oconee paid $10.60 and $7 for the minor awards. Shaken returned $6.20 to show.
Kentucky-bred Venus Valentine is the first starter out of two-time stakes winner Valentine Fever, by Stormin Fever.