A dynamite stretch run resulted in a nose decision for Roca Rojo, as she battled with Believe in Bertie down the length of the Churchill Downs stretch in the $300,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile presented by Longines (G2T) May 6.
Video: Churchill Distaff Turf Mile S. Presented by Longines (G2T)
Roca Rojo went off as the 6-5 favorite following the scratch of morning-line favorite Miss Temple City due to the wet condition of the turf course, which was rated good for the race.
Roca Rojo finished a nose back of Miss Temple City in the Matriarch Stakes (G1T) last summer, and she returned in style with the Churchill Distaff score. Trained by Chad Brown for Sheep Pond Partners, Newport Stables, and Bradley Thoroughbreds, the daughter of Strategic Prince—Lucy Diamonds, by Orpen, was bred in Ireland by Tommy Murphy.
"She's been training really well," Brown said. "We knew she could handle the soft going. She ran down a really good horse and we'll look at the Just a Game (G1T) next."
"Down the stretch I thought I had it pretty easily," said rider Florent Geroux, "but the other filly tried to come back at her. My filly was the best."
Winner of the Athenia Stakes (G3T) on soft turf in October at Belmont Park, Roca Rojo began alertly and fell into a stalking trip outside Klein Racing's Believe in Bertie, who entered the race with a four-race win streak, all at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Believe in Bertie carved out fractions of :25.23 and :49.20 and opened up a two-length advantage in the backstretch, with Roca Rojo second and Mississippi Delta running in third.
As the field entered the second bend, Geroux angled Roca Rojo out for a clear run at the leader, and they made immediate headway, getting on even terms as they straightened for home. A ding-dong battle ensued the length of the stretch, with Roca Rojo inching clear late to score by a nose. Linda finished third, with Mississippi Delta fourth behind a final time of 1:37.53.
Roca Rojo returned $4.60, $3, and $2.40. Believe in Bertie was good for $4 and $3, while Linda paid $2.80 to show.
Roca Rojo, a 5-year-old, has now won six of eight lifetime races. She began her career with two scores in Ireland over soft and good ground, and has now won five races on less-than-firm turf courses. She has bankrolled $490,542.