Overlooked at odds of 10-1, Lady of Fifty found redemption as she took the overland route under Corey Nakatani to capture the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 3 at Del Mar (VIDEO).
Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, Lady of Fifty had dropped four races in a row this season. After a third-place finish in the Vanity Handicap (gr. I) as the favorite June 15 at Betfair Hollywood Park, the bandwagon had emptied.
But the 4-year-old daughter of After Market, allowed to lag next-to-last in the nine-horse field rounding the far turn, came home best of all with a seven-wide rally to defeat More Chocolate by 1 1/2 lengths. Vanity winner Byrama was third.
The final time for the 1 1/16-mile test of older fillies and mares was 1:42.96 over the Polytrack.
Odds-on choice Include Me Out, the defending Hirsch champion, was prominently placed throughout while pressing a good pace. But she had no response in the stretch when asked by Joe Talamo and finished unplaced.
The Clement Hirsch carries an automatic berth to the $2 million Ladies' Classic Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park as part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series.
Hollendorfer co-owns Lady of Fifty with longtime partner George Todaro. The gray/roan filly, bred in Kentucky by Cloverleaf Farms out of the the Maria's Mon mare K. D's Shady Lady, sold for $40,000 in 2010 as a Keeneland September yearling. She has earned $593,000 with seven wins from 16 starts.
"I felt a little bit funny about Lady of Fifty being back so far," noted Hollendorfer after his first grade I victory at Del Mar. "When she came into the lane and was getting equal with them, I thought she'd have a chance of running them down and she did. It's one of the best races she's run. It's a 'Win and You're In," so I guess we're in."
This was the first win for Hollendorfer in the Clement Hirsch, a race that was won three consecutive years by the great Zenyatta (2008-10). Nakatani previously won the Hirsch in 1998 with Sharp Cat.
"On the turn, I saw them bunching up inside and she was rolling so good I didn't want to stop her," said Nakatani, who rode Lady of Fifty for the first time. "So we went out and that allowed her to keep her momentum. She's a real nice filly. There's no doubt about that."
Outsiders Sister Kate and Great Hot led the field through quarter mile fractions of :23.41, :47.06, and 1:11.36, with Include Me Out in a good stalking spot while a bit wide alongside Quiet Oasis and Byrama. Lady of Fifty, breaking from the rail, immediately fell out to the back, ahead of only stablemate Via Villaggio, who was away slowly.
More Chocolate, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, made good progress off the turn and Byrama, looking for room while chasing the leaders along the inside, were the first to threaten. But Nakatani, urging Lady of Fifty, took the far outside position for the drive. Sweeping up alongside the contenders, they forced More Chocolate to the inside a bit, where More Chocolate lost some ground before finding room to re-rally between the retreating Sisterhood and Include Me Out. Byrama, meantime, found an opening to the inside under Gary Stevens as the weakening Sister Kate came off the rail.
But it was too late. Lady of Fifty, taking the lead on the outside, was overpowering in deep stretch as More Chocolate and Byrama settled for second and third, respectively, separated by a half-length.
Lady of Fifty posted her first graded stakes win impressively by nearly four lengths last December in the Bayakoa Stakes (gr. II) at Hollywood. She went off as the favorite in three of her four tries this year, all grade II races except for the Vanity. She ran well in all four, with a second, two thirds and a fourth, but was unable to close the deal until Saturday. She has now won five of 10 starts on synthetic tracks.
She carried 119 pounds, four fewer than the highweighted Byrama, and paid $23.20, $10.20, and $5.80. More Chocolate, second in the Vanity last time out, returned $5.60 and $4 and completed a $100.20 exacta. Byrama was $3.80 to show.
Great Hot was fourth, followed by Sisterhood, Via Villaggio, Sister Kate, Include Me Out, and Quiet Oasis.