Ariege won for the third time in seven lifetime starts, and the 3-year-old Doneraile Court filly captured her second consecutive graded stakes score. One month earlier, she prevailed by a half-length, once again over Golden Doc A, in the 1 1/16-mile Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) on Cushion Track.
Trainer Bobby Frankel was non-committal when asked where the versatile dark bay or brown filly would be headed next, but indicated that the May 2 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) would be unlikely. He said the American Oaks (gr. IT) at Santa Anita might be an option. For now, he was going to savor this victory.
“We weren’t that confident coming in. We were in the one-hole, which isn’t really where you want to be here,” Frankel said. “She had been training well though and got a good trip. She showed a good turn of foot. She is a really nice filly, a very pleasant surprise how she's been running on these synthetic surfaces."
Ariege, who was bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm and is out of the Caerleon mare Kostroma, completed the seven furlongs in 1:25.81. Ron McCauley’s Golden Doc A, the 2-1 favorite, was 2 ½ lengths ahead of Passion for second. Keep the Peace was fourth in the field of nine.
Gomez kept Ariege near the rail and was content to settle in sixth through an opening quarter of :23.70, which was set by Passion. Ridden by John Velazquez, Passion was also in front through a :47.26 half and 1:11.02 six furlongs. Keep the Peace tracked from the inside, while Tasha’s Miracle, Zee Zee and Armonk were also near the front.
Passion has a narrow lead at the top of the lane, but a hole opened up for Ariege along the rail and she took advantage. The 3-1 second choice went by Passion and eased out four-wide as she struck the front. Golden Doc A made a big run under Rafael Bejarano from the middle of racetrack, but was unable to catch the winner.
"I was really not liking my position on the backside, so I tried to edge my way out a couple times," Gomez said. "I couldn't really get out of there. I said I'll try to wait and explode out of there. She was real responsive to what I needed her to do, and she came home really well for us."
Ariege paid $8.40, $4.40, and $3. The exacta (1-8) was worth $25.20.
Bejarano said of second-place Golden Doc A: "She ran a real big race. We didn't have any problems. We sat back off the speed and waited until the quarter pole and when I asked her she responded. She just ran out of room."
The winner is now 3-1-1 from seven starts, having earned $385,828.