Garrett Gomez jerked Pussycat Doll off the rail and the filly went by stablemate Behaving Badly to win the $291,000 Humana Distaff Handicap (gr. I) by one length at Churchill Downs Saturday.
Behaving Badly was the 9-10 favorite and made the lead as expected. But it was the other Bob Baffert-trained horse, 4-1 shot Pussycat Doll, who got the victory. Behaving Badly had won four straight while Pussycat Doll had not been out since a fourth-place finish in the Feb. 12 La Canada (gr. II). Before that, she won her first grade I race, the La Brea at Santa Anita on New Year's Eve.
Right out of the gate in the seven-furlong race, Malibu Mint threw jockey Julien Leparoux, who got up apparently uninjured. Bending Strings pushed the leader on the outside under Corey Nakatani, while Behaving Badly reached the lead for Victor Espinoza as they went a quarter in :23.05. Running a half in :45.89, Behaving Badly maintained a half-length advantage, but her stablemate was hugging the rail all the way and had plenty left for the stretch run.
As the field straightened away, Pussycat Doll was right behind Behaving Badly and Gomez had to swing out for clear sailing. The winner finally got moving and powered by inside the eighth pole for the win.
Gomez said Pussycat Doll was "stirred up in the post parade. Maybe it was the big crowd. So I had to get after her some when the running came, had to get her mind where it needed to be."
When he asked her tackle Behaving Badly in the stretch with several taps on the shoulder, "she responded well," Gomez said.
Espinoza said the Churchill strip was not as tight as those Behaving Badly thrives on in California.
"She was slipping around and got tired," he said.
Pussycat Doll was bred and is owned by Mike Pegram, who raced the 4-year-old filly's sire, Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) winner Real Quiet
. She is out of the Citidancer
"I don't know if these fillies are equal or not," Baffert said afterward. "Actually, they're different types. The one is a rocket ship (Behaving Badly) and the other is a filly who will run on. I'm glad she (Pussycat Doll) won this one for Mike. He's got himself a Grade I winner and he bred her himself."
The winner notched her fifth win in 11 starts and earned $175,008, pushing her career bankroll to $507,831.
The third choice in the field of eight, Pussycat Doll paid $10, $3.80, and $3 after going the distance in 1:21.62. Behaving Badly returned $2.80 and $2.40, and Bending Strings finished third, 1 1/4 lengths behind the runner-up, and was worth $5.
Atlas Valley finished fourth, followed by Nossa Cancao, Splendid Blended and Eastern Lilly.
Leparoux, the apprentice riding sensation who won five races on Friday, was not hurt in Malibu Mint's fall.
"I'm OK," he said. "I don't know what happened. She just stumbled."
Leave Me Alone scratched after running on Friday.