Antonoe streaks under the wire to win the Just a Game Stakes

Antonoe streaks under the wire to win the Just a Game Stakes

Chad B. Harmon

Antonoe Announces Presence in Just a Game

The First Defence filly impressively picked up her first top-level score.

Juddmonte Farms' Antonoe announced her presence with a tremendous run in the $700,000 Longines Just a Game (G1T) June 10 at Belmont Park.

Stepping up from an April 14 allowance score at Keeneland to top-level company in her second North American start for trainer Chad Brown, the 4-year-old First Defence filly picked up her first grade 1 victory.

"I don't think that I've ever had a horse in my training career come home that fast on turf, at any distance, at any level," Brown said.

Antonoe was last in the field of seven older fillies and mares through the early going after breaking well from post 7, with jockey Javier Castellano biding his time well off the pace set by Sassy Little Lila.

That one went a quarter-mile in :23.70, a half in :46.92, and three-quarters in 1:09.75, and maintained the advantage into the stretch, but Antonoe was diving down to the inside off the turn for home and rallied swiftly up the inside to claim the score by three-quarters of a length. It was a nose back to third-place finisher Dickinson.

"I had to ride her European-style; a lot of patience (and) save all the ground the best I could," Castellano said. "She cut the corner turning for home. It worked in the finish. You don't see too many horses that (can win) the way she did today. She's really strong. I'm really happy with how she did today. The way she showed me today, the longer, I think, the better."

The final time for the mile test was 1:32.12 on firm turf. Antonoe, off at odds of 3-1, returned $8.20, $5.60, and $4. Sassy Little Lila paid $8.40 and $4.80, and Dickinson brought $3.50. The order of finish was completed by Harmonize, 2016 Just a Game winner Celestine, Prize Exhibit, and 2-1 favorite Roca Rojo.

"I confess that at the three-eighths pole, even the quarter-pole, I was a little concerned," Brown said. "My horses were last and second-to-last. I didn't see a scenario where they'd be able to close that much ground on a quality field in front of them. This filly was very impressive today to make up that much ground. It looks like Roca Rojo never really fired today on this turf. I'll have to evaluate her."

Antonoe was bred in Kentucky by Millsec Ltd. out of the Dynaformer mare Ixora. She broke her maiden in France and won the Prix d'Aumale (G3) at Chantilly in her first two starts as a juvenile, but then went winless in four starts before shipping to the United States, where she is now two-for-two. Her full record stands at four wins and a third from eight starts, with earnings of $491,377.