Lawrence Goichman was hoping for a storybook ending for homebred mare J’ray. A win in the $150,000 La Prevoyante Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) would not only give the 5-year-old a victory in her final start, but would push her over $1 million in career earnings.
Unfortunately for them, Northern Bloodstock’s Herboriste had other plans, as the English-bred daughter of Hernando outdueled J’ray after a thrilling stretch drive to take the 1 1/2-mile contest by a neck Dec. 13 on the Calder Race Course turf.
With Julien Leparoux aboard, Herboriste raced in third during the early stages of the marathon event while The Niagara Queen sprinted to a commanding lead. J’ray was 10th in a field of 11 fillies and mares until she began picking off rivals around the final turn under Joe Bravo.
After The Niagara Queen had enough, Herboriste and J’ray were the two to catch, as they struck the front in the straightaway and opened up a five-length advantage on their closest rival. They raced on even terms inside the sixteenth-pole, with Herboriste on the inside. Herborsite finally edged clear in the deep stretch to earn her first graded stakes score.
The final time for 12 furlongs on the grass was 2:25.47. Lamentation was six lengths back in third.
“The key to riding this mare is to just let her run her race,” Leparoux said. “Once we leave the gate and she relaxes and begins running comfortably I know right then that she will be there for me at the end. That’s why I wasn’t concerned when the other filly (The Niagra Queen) went out and opened up. When we made our move, J’ray went with us and I knew we were in for a fight, but fortunately we had something left.”
Herboriste had been close to earning an elusive graded stakes victory several times this season, as she finished a neck back in third in the Very One Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream in March, and runner-up in both the Sheepshead Bay Handicap (gr. IIT) and Robert Dick Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Delaware Park this summer. She entered the La Prevoyante with a victory in the Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes at Keeneland in October.
“She’s had a very good year running in the best races and holding her own,” said trainer Michael Matz. “She was just coming out of her conditions when she ran in this race last year (fifth, beaten three lengths) and she’s come a long way. She began her career in France with (trainer) Pascal Bary and was then sent over here to hopefully earn some black type.
“The plan is to breed her next year, but she might have another race before then at Gulfstream if she comes out of this OK.”
The Niagara Queen raced to an uncontested lead under Chris DeCarlo in the early stages, opening up a six-length lead after a half-mile (:47.87) and extending her advantage over Tremendous One to nine lengths through a mile in 1:12.04. But her rivals began to close ground as they made their way through the turn, and as they entered the lane Herboriste and J’ray went right on by.
Herboriste had just enough to outlast her rival.
Bred by Haras De Bourgeauville, Herboriste is out of the Gone West mare Helvellyn. The 5-year-old is now 4-4-3 from 18 starts with earnings of $373,019.
J’ray, who won the Taylor Made Matchmaker Stakes (gr. IIIT) and Canadian Stakes (gr. IIT) earlier this season for Todd Pletcher, completes her career with a 9-8-1 record from 26 starts. She earned $969,843. The New York-bred daughter of Distant View finishes with four graded stakes victories.
Herboriste paid $8.20, $4, and $2.80. The exacta (7-6) returned $28.80, with the trifecta (7-6-5) paying $335.40.
You Go West Girl finished fourth, followed by Palmilla, Communique, Tremendous One, Jazz Jam, The Niagara Queen, Chelly B, and Lady Sarah.