Going into the $100,000 Miss Preakness Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO
), the question for Palanka City was whether the black type winner could step up to graded competition. It was a question the Terry Gestes trainee answered with an emphatic “yes” as she sprinted off to win the six-furlong test, which she took by 5 1/2 lengths at Pimlico May 16.
A muddy track led to the scratching of two entries from the field, including grade III winner Passion, who would have been the likely favorite for trainer Todd Pletcher. With her absence, Palanka City was sent off at odds of 1-2 on the merits of an April 11 score by four lengths in Oaklawn Park’s Prima Dona Stakes.
“I figured she’d be bet down,” Gestes said. “I was just hoping she would handle the track. She was a little nervous today. I don’t know if it was the rain or the weather.”
Jockey Chris Emigh also picked up on the Carson City filly’s nerves in the paddock, but he has been aboard for six of her 10 starts, partnering for four of five victories. Accustomed to her running style, which works best on or just behind the pace, he was able to get Palanka City to relax and settle three wide off Casanova Killer’s lead as the quarter went in :22.93, and a half in :46.16. Kosmo’s Buddy was third while Story of a Lion tracked along in fourth. Beau’s Valentine, disgusted with the muddy going, trailed the field.
After five-eighths in :58.45, the field reached the eighth pole with Casanova Killer still in front by nearly two lengths. It looked as if Palanka City might be second best. Set down to the task by Emigh, however, the filly re-broke with an overpowering burst of speed and blew past Casanova Killer on her way to win in 1:10.90 on a sealed track.
“Turning for home, I said, ‘Uh-oh. I hope she re-breaks,’” Gestes remarked. “And she did when he hit her.”
Casanova Killer held on for second by 4 3/4 lengths, while Beau’s Valentine overcame her dislike of the surface to close for third. The payoffs were $3, $2.20, and $2.10 for Palanka City, $3.20 and $2.40 for Casanova Killer and jockey Jeremy Rose, and $2.20 for Beau’s Valentine under Kent Desormeaux.
“Our horse broke great and was very relaxed,” Emigh said. “Into the far turn, the ‘one’ horse squirted away. My horse responded well. I hit her once, and she let loose another gear around the turn and finished up strong.”
Bred in Kentucky by Overbrook Farm out of the Storm Bird mare Indian Sunset, Palanka City was a $60,000 purchase at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2006. She has a 5-2-1 record from 10 starts for owner William Stiritz, and has accumulated $173,000 in earnings to date.