Leonard Green's Mo' Green sprung a mild upset when she flew by odds-on favorite Isabelle in the stretch to score by 3 1/2 lengths in the $200,000 Top Flight Invitational Stakes (G3) April 2 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
"I was very impressed. This is the first time I've run her and I was a little concerned about her in the paddock. She seemed very quiet," trainer John Servis said of the filly who previously ran for trainer Joseph Orseno and D. J. Stable, which is run by Green's son Jonathan. "I asked the owners, 'Is she always like this?' And they said, 'No. She's usually ramped up.' Then when she broke, she broke so sharp, I knew I didn't have to worry about her being quiet."
In the 1 1/8-mile test for older fillies and mares, Verve's Tale hustled for lead into the first turn, but Isabelle beat her out and took control. Mo' Green, under Irad Ortiz Jr., raced comfortably just off the frontrunners in third. Winter and Oasis at Midnight remained at the back.
Verve's Tale continued to pressure Isabelle through an honest pace in the first six furlongs, clocking fractions of :24.47, :48.98, and 1:13.60. As the five-horse field turned for home, the front two weakened as Mo' Green went four wide and took control at the head of the stretch. Under urging from Ortiz, the daughter of Uncle Mo finished in a drive to the wire, 3 1/2 lengths clear of Verve's Tale in second. The final time was 1:51.79 on the track rated fast.
Longshot Oasis at Midnight had some run left in the stretch and finished third, 4 1/2 lengths back from Verve's Tale. Winter and Isabelle, who gave way in the stretch, rounded out the order of finish.
Mo' Green returned $8.40, $4.30, and $4 across the board.
"John (Servis) didn't want me to go too early or be close to the pace," Ortiz said. "The plan was to stalk and just ride my race. She broke so sharp, I just put the reins down to relax her, and when I asked her she just picked it up. She was ready."
"She put herself into the race and had a perfect trip," Servis said. "When they leave there running, they usually put themselves in good positions and (Ortiz) was really just able to sit on her until the eighth pole.
"She had some time off, and she's come back this year running and she's getting better with every race. We'll see how she comes out of it and go from there. I know we've talked about the (grade 3) Allaire DuPont (Distaff May 19 at Pimlico Race Course), but we'll see how she comes out of this."
Sunday's score was the first graded win for the 4-year-old filly, who entered off a runner-up effort in the Royal Delta Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 18, when she was beaten six lengths by Curlin's Approval. Her win boosts her record to 4-3-1 from 11 starts, with earnings of $259,420.
Bred by Candy Meadows and Jim Wells, Mo' Green was purchased for $40,000 as a yearling at Keeneland in 2014 by Eisamen Equine and then was pinhooked to the Ocala Breeders' Sale Co.'s April sale of 2-year-olds in training, where she brought $70,000 from D. J. Stable.