With multiple graded stakes wins already to her credit and minor issues keeping her away from competition for more than a year, Lewis Bay could have headed to the breeding shed for a date with any stallion of owner/breeder Alpha Delta Stables' choosing.
Knowing what she was capable of on her best day, the sporting call was made to give Lewis Bay the time needed to get herself right. In the $100,000 Rampart Stakes (G3) Dec. 16 at Gulfstream Park, the bay filly provided a refresher course on her ability when she turned back even-money favorite Curlin's Approval to score a 1 1/4-length victory in her first start since November of 2016.
"It's not easy to do, 13 months (off) and run against a really good filly like the one who was second," Brown said. "She had a lot of minor setbacks and it took a lot of patience to get over. (Owner) Jon Clay (of Alpha Delta) is a real sportsman. He could have bred her.
"I'm glad he didn't, because she's back on track now."
Prior to going to the sideline following her second-place finish in the 2016 Comely Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack, Lewis Bay was one of the more promising members of her generation. She captured the 2015 Demoiselle Stakes (G2) in her third start and went on to take the Gazelle Stakes (G2) and Turnback the Alarm Handicap (G3) during a 3-year-old campaign that also saw her place in both the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Mother Goose Stakes (G1).
If there was any rust to shake off in the one-mile Rampart Stakes, Lewis Bay took care of that in swift order. Sent off at 2-1 odds in the seven-horse field, she broke well out of post 3, got into her customary front-running rhythm under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., and kept Curlin's Approval on the rail and a head behind her as she went through the opening quarter in :23.96.
"We figured she would probably be a little fresh ... and on this track it's probably better to be a little closer," Brown said of Lewis Bay.
Curlin's Approval—who had earned each of her four wins this season over the Gulfstream main track—moved up inside to stick her head in front just past the quarter and the top two remained side-by-side through a half-mile in :46.59. Ortiz still had a loose rein on Lewis Bay at that point, and with only mild urging, the bay distaffer took control for good coming around the far turn and was ridden out down the lane. She covered the distance in 1:36.14.
"I had a pretty good trip," Ortiz said. "Chad told me not to take anything away from her if she can get it easy, so I just let her break and be wherever she was comfortable. When I asked her, she was there for me. She responded really good."
Lewis Bay improved her record to five wins from 11 starts with $866,360 in earnings.
The Rampart was one of five graded stakes on Saturday's Gulfstream card. In the $100,000 Sugar Swirl Stakes (G3), 3-year-old Rich Mommy came with a four-wide move down the lane and bested older mares to earn her first graded stakes victory.
Trained by Victor Barboza Jr., Rich Mommy was stepping into stakes company for the first time. She won three of her last four prior outings, including a 2 1/4-length win going six furlongs at Gulfstream Park West Nov. 12. The daughter of Algorithms rated in fourth as pacesetter Dearest had True Romance at her neck through an opening quarter in :22.57 and a half-mile in :45.51.
As the pacemakers began to tire entering the stretch, jockey Luis Saez sent Rich Mommy to the outside, past Bodacious Babe—who joined the leading fray around the final turn—to register a two-length score in a final time of 1:10.44 for six furlongs.
"The filly had been doing good for the race and the distance was perfect for her," Barboza said. "The jockey followed instructions exactly and thank God it all worked out. We have taken it step by step with this filly, and at this moment she is doing very well."
Bodacious Babe held second with More Than a Party, a 73-1 longshot, third.
Stuart Janney III's homebred daughter of War Front bided her time in fourth, just behind Defiant Honor down the backstretch, as Gianna's Dream had things her way through fractions of :24.09 and :48.28. On Leave advanced three-wide on the turn but needed all of her ability to get past the stubborn pacesetter.
Stormy Victoria rallied up the rail late to get third, another neck behind Gianna's Dream.
Trained by Shug McGaughey, On Leave covered the distance in 1:35.35 to earn her seventh win from 14 starts. Five of those victories have come in stakes, including the 2016 Sands Point (G2T), and she was coming off a troubled third-place finish behind Kitten's Roar in the Goldikova Stakes (G2T) Nov. 4 at Del Mar.
"We've had a good year with her," McGaughey said. "We're going to race her next year. We'll give her a little time at Payson Park and see where she takes us."