It was the second stakes win for the Rudy Rodriguez-trained son of Posse, who entered the Alex M. Robb off a three-length win in the Discovery Stakes (G3) Nov. 25 at Aqueduct. The 4-year-old colt was claimed by his current connections for $62,500 in January of 2017.
"It was a very good performance. He loves going two turns," Rodriguez said. "The couple weeks we've had off waiting for the race, it looked like it benefited him. I knew he was only going to get stronger coming off the race he ran last time. We were giving a lot of weight to the other horses in the field, but we were confident in his ability and it showed today."
In Sunday's 1 1/8-mile test, Control Group and jockey Kendrick Carmouche got to the lead early, as Wake Up in Malibu stalked from second with Can You Diggit racing close by in third. Control Group took the five-horse field through fractions of :25.65 and :50.16, with Wake Up in Malibu within a half-length of the leader.
As six furlongs went in 1:14.18, Control Group started opening up on his competition. With a 4 1/2-length advantage in the stretch, there was no catching the leader, but Can You Diggit ran on to finish second and cut Control Group's win margin to four lengths at the finish. The final time was 1:52.19 over the track labeled fast.
"Rudy said, 'Warm him up good and do what you think is best. If the other horse wants to go, he can sit, but he prefers to be in front,'" Carmouche said. "He broke good and I just set enough fractions going easy that I could speed up from the three-eighths pole (to) home. Pretty much cruise control, you know?"
Bred by Colts Neck Stable and Alan Goldberg in New York, Control Group is out of the unraced Victory Gallop mare We Kept Her. He sold twice at auction, and his last time through the ring was at the 2016 Ocala Breeders' Sales June 2-year-olds in training sale, when he brought $15,000 from his former trainer Gary Contessa as agent.
With a record of 6-3-3 from 14 starts, Control Group increased his earnings to $381,570.
It was the first stakes win for the 7-year-old Harlington mare who is trained by Rice.
"We wanted the lead. I thought maybe we had the pace advantage," Rice said. "This filly runs pretty brave on the front end, so we took advantage of that. Manny (Franco) had to work awfully hard out of the gate to get the lead but I've got to say, Manny gave her a strong ride. He never gave up on this filly.
"She's a real stayer. She's got a lot of stamina and he was aware of that. He said he had watched Jose (Ortiz) ride her and she just doesn't give up. I was very proud of her and Manny."
With Franco up in the 1 1/8-mile listed stakes, Just Got Out hustled to the front of the six-horse field out of the gate. The mare led through fractions of :24.52, :49.40, and 1:14.65 for six furlongs, as favored Bombshell tracked in second and Sherini and Girl Talk just behind the leaders.
In the stretch, Bombshell made an effort to pass Just Got Out, but the dark bay dug in to hold off that challenger and a late attempt by Girl Talk. Just Got Out was a neck ahead of Girl Talk at the wire. The final time was 1:55.32.
Sherini finished third but was disqualified to fifth for causing interference in the stretch. Bombshell was elevated to third.
"I had claimed her for Aron Yagoda (in October of 2016 for $16,000) and then I claimed her back with another client (in July of 2017 for $20,000)," Rice added. "At Saratoga, it was pretty frustrating; we didn't run her for two months because she was a (main track only entry) all the time and didn't (get) to run. I thought she'd be a good horse for the winter, but not necessarily a stakes winner."
Bred by Eugene Melnyk in Ontario, out of the winning Forest Wildcat mare Moonshine Gal, Just Got Out was a $33,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale. She now has a 10-6-9 record from 41 starts, with earnings of $375,908.