Saturday, August 25, 2012
Contested unrivaled in Test
By Claire Novak
Contested overcame a flat-footed start and closed from off the pace to win the $500,000 Test Stakes by two lengths at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 25, nabbing her second Grade 1 victory in New York this year.
The 3-year-old Ghostzapper filly ran seven furlongs in 1:22.47, wearing down frontrunner Ullapool and chaser Gypsy Robin after sitting third behind a sizzling quarter in :21.49 and a half in :44.09.
"I think she runs better off the pace," said Jim Barnes, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. "They were going very fast. I wouldn't have wanted to have been up with them. I told Rafael, 'You've got to play the break. If you catch a flyer, you can actually go. If you get away slowly, just put her in a comfortable, clean spot.' And he did."
Ullapool, sent off at odds of 37-1, was 2 1/2 lengths ahead at the quarter and 2 ahead at the half, but lost the advantage turning for home through three-quarters in 1:09.06, as Contested swung three-wide from her stalking position. The bay filly gained the lead near the furlong marker and eked out an advantage with every stride down the stretch, kept to the task by jockey Rafael Bejarano's right-handed urging. Gypsy Robin held on for second by half a length while Beautiful But Blue closed rapidly to get the show.
"My horse broke a little slow, but I knew Gypsy Robin and the other horse were going to go to the lead," Bejarano said. "I just tried to figure it out and get my horse in good position. When we came to the stretch the race was done. I had plenty of horse and she showed me a big kick. She didn't stumble; she just broke a little slow. I didn't try to rush; I just tried to get in good position. It actually benefited me because the horses on the lead were going very fast."
Even-money favorite in a 10-horse field, Contested paid $4, $3.60, and $2.60. Gypsy Robin returned $10.40 and $5.60, while Beautiful But Blue brought $4.70. Well Kept, Jazzy Idea, Amie's Dini, Book Review, Aubby K, Ullapool, and Yara completed the order of finish.
The Test was a good rebound for Contested, who ran last of five as the beaten favorite after setting the pace on a deep track in the June 23 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park. That Mother Goose failure was her only loss of 2012; she also won Belmont's May 28 TVG Acorn Stakes by five lengths and took the Eight Belles at Churchill Downs May 4 after airing by 5 3/4 lengths in an open allowance in April at Santa Anita Park.
A $110,000 purchase from the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale, Contested gave Baffert his second Test score; he won the 2008 edition with Patti and Hal Earnhardt's Indian Blessing. Baffert's wife, Jill (Natalie J. Baffert), owns the bay runner, who was bred in Kentucky out of the Arch mare Gold Vault by Cherry Valley Farm. The Test was her fifth victory from seven starts; she also has a second with earnings of $633,754.