Jay Em Ess Stable's By the Moon returned to the winner's circle after a series of close finishes, after she overtook Pretty N Cool entering the turn and held on for a 1 3/4-length victory in the $200,000 Vagrancy Handicap (G3) May 5 at Belmont Park.
By the Moon, the runner-up in three of her previous four starts, completed 6 1/2 furlongs on a sloppy and sealed main track in 1:17.44.
The 5-year-old dark bay mare was sent to the front and led the field of eight with a first quarter-mile in :22.57, but Pretty N Cool challenged for pacesetter status and hit the front later to run a half-mile in :45.35.
Jockey Rajiv Maragh then guided By the Moon to the outside of Pretty N Cool, drawing even before driving to her to a lead near the eighth pole.
"She broke so well, which I was hoping she would (do), so I could establish a nice, easy position," Maragh said. "She got into a great flow down the backstretch, and in the turn she stayed in a nice rhythm. She felt like I had a lot of horse underneath me. I just didn't want (Pretty N Cool), who seemed to be my main opposition, to get too much of a jump on me, so I wanted to keep her in range. She had me there effortlessly. I felt like I had (Pretty N Cool) where I wanted (her). I felt like I had (her) measured, and when I looked back, we were so far ahead of the field.
"I was pretty confident coming off the turn, that if she sustained her run, we were going to win the race and she sure did. She finished the race with a lot of horse left."
Sent off as the 2-1 favorite, By the Moon improved her earnings to $1,120,440. It was her first win since the Bed of Roses (G3) June 25, though she put in impressive second-place efforts finishing just a half-length back in the Ballerina (G1) and neck behind in the Barbara Fritchie (G2) last time out Feb. 18 for trainer Michelle Nevin.
"Rajiv did a great job with her. She loves Belmont," Nevin said. "She doesn't care about what kind of track she's on. When she broke he had her perfect from the start. He just sat right off the other filly and timed it right. She had a great trip and things worked out great."