ORCHID STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | 4-YEAR-OLD AND UP | FILLIES AND MARES | GRADE 3 | 1 1/2-MILES
Godolphin Racing LLC's Anjaz returned from more than a seven month layoff to capture her first stakes in the United States in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Orchid Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
"She's trained very well," said Joe Murphy, assistant trainer to Tom Albertrani. Tommy's done an excellent job prepping her for this. We were a little bit nervous with the rain forecast today. It scared us a little bit more, but the gods looked favorably upon us.
"They've been struggling with her, and it's just a relief. Everyone's overjoyed, and that's what people want. We had a rough day in Dubai, but Tommy would be very pleased (with Anjaz). He did a great job with her, and I think she can do a little bit more.
The five-year-old mare took over the lead shortly after the start to set the pace along the rail in the 1 1/2-mile contest over the firm turf.
The only pressure Anjaz received was from eventual runner-up Viva Rafaela, who ran in second the entire race. Anjaz kept that rival at bay by not letting her get closer than a length in the last half-mile. The daughter of Street Cry kicked clear in the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths and crossed the wire in 2:24 3/5.
"The race played out really good," jockey Rajiv Maragh said. "She broke really sharp and took me around the track very comfortably in the beginning, and I had a lot left to finish with. Once she established the lead, it was a mile and a half so everyone was pretty much being patient with a long distance to go.
"All the horses got into a nice flow. It was a pretty steady kind of race. I was fortunate to get it easy, and I'll take it like that. It worked out pretty good."
Anjaz was sent off as the 5-1 fourth choice and paid $12 for the victory. She banked $90,000 to boost her bankroll to $195,380 from a 12-4-2-1 career line.
Viva Rafaela took second, 1 3/4 lengths clear of Clearbrook in third. Caroline Thomas, Stick to Your Guns, 9-5 favorite Aigue Marine, Inimitable Romanee and Hunter Forward rounded out the order of finish. Antonia Autumn was scratched from the race.
Anjaz started her career in England before shipping to the United States to begin her four-year-old campaign. Her first U.S. start was a fourth-place finish in the 2013 running of the Orchid and she was beaten by a length in her next start on May 25 in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay at Belmont. The bay ran seventh in the Grade 2 New York the following month and was coming off a runner-up finish in the Waya Stakes at Saratoga on August 5.
"Tommy would have to make the next call, but hopefully, I think she has a couple more in her," Murphy stated when asked what might be next.
Bred in Kentucky by Darley, Anjaz is out of the Sadler's Wells mare Playful Act, an English co-highweight filly at two who is a full sister to multiple Grade 3 winner Changing Skies. Anjaz is a half-sister to Grade 2 scorer Giants Play.
The bay's third dam is Mia Karina, who produced Group 3 winner Magnificent Style and Grade 1 victor Siberian Summer. Magnificent Style herself produced multiple English and Irish highweight Nathaniel as well as English co-highweight filly Great Heavens. Her female family also boasts Grade 1 winner Silver Ending and Group 1 hero Cavalryman, who finished an unlucky close second in his title defense run in Saturday's Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan.