GAMELY S. | PURSE: $301,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | GRADE 1 | 1 1/8-MILES (TURF)
Matias Cavalieri traveled to see his Argentinean Group 1 heroine Miss Serendipity contest Monday's $301,000 Gamely Stakes at Santa Anita, and his homebred made the trip worthwhile by adding a U.S. Grade 1 laurel to her resume. It took a fittingly game effort on her part to collar Emollient, who herded her while drifting noticeably across the course, but Miss Serendipity refused to be denied and thrust her nose in front in time.
On the upswing all season for Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally, the six-year-old mare had nearly prevailed in the April 13 Santa Barbara Handicap, but had the victory snatched from her grasp by Stormy Lucy. Despite the narrow loss in her latest venture, Miss Serendipity was allowed to go off at 13-1 in the Memorial Day feature.
Jockey Brice Blanc had Miss Serendipity well placed in fourth early, in the clear and within easy striking distance of the front-running Rhagori. Emollient, the 3-1 second choice, prompted through fractions of :23 4/5, :47 1/5 and 1:10 3/5. When Emollient ratcheted up the pressure on the far turn, Miss Serendipity moved at the same time to keep her firmly in sight.
Emollient wrested control turning into the stretch and tried to get away, but Miss Serendipity was in hot pursuit. In midstretch, Emollient continued to hold sway, and threatened to keep going through a mile in 1:34 1/5.
But Miss Serendipity was relentless, and Emollient didn't appear entirely straightforward as she commenced a rightward drift under pressure. Miss Serendipity, however, remained resolute and earned the verdict. The daughter of Not for Sale finished 1 1/8 firm-turf miles in 1:46 1/5 and sparked a healthy win mutuel of $29.80.
"My mare has been improving with each race," Blanc said. "She just needed to get acclimated. She was aggressive her first few races and they wanted to try and change that style. It took us a little while to work on her but now she's acclimating. I watched her replays before I ever rode her and she's always impressed me."
"I wasn't sure whether she got beat or not," McAnally said of the thrilling finish.
Emollient's rider, Rosie Napravnik, described what happened down the lane.
"She felt great," Napravnik said. "I was full of horse the whole way but she really hangs when she gets out front. She ducked when I got her with the stick and she was a little bit all over the place in the stretch. She's super-talented. I just think it's more of having to trick her into doing the right thing."
The top two were 2 1/4 lengths clear of 2-1 favorite Parranda, who rallied belatedly for third, and Stormy Lucy closed for fourth. Next came Premier Steps, Customer Base, Rhagori, Emotional Kitten and Changethechannel.
Miss Serendipity nearly doubled her career bankroll to $373,358 from a scorecard of 24-6-6-3, reflecting proficiency on turf and dirt. Runner-up in the 2011 Premio Francisco J. Beazley to her maternal relative Malibu Queen, she captured the Premio Japan Racing Association and missed by a head in the Premio Republica Oriental del Uruguay in 2012, all on dirt. Miss Serendipity placed in three more stakes in 2013 -- the Miguel Angel y Tomas Juarez Celman and the Ricardo, Ezequiel y Miguel Fernandez Guerrico on turf and the Circulo de Propietarios de Caballerizas on dirt -- before concluding her Argentinean career with an exclamation point.
Saving her best in her homeland for last, she routed the June 29 Gran Premio Estrellas Distaff by four lengths, speeding about 1 1/4 miles on turf in 1:57 4/5. Miss Serendipity was then sent stateside, and made her debut for McAnally in the January 12 Paseana at Santa Anita -- named for the Hall of Fame racemare from Argentina who was also trained by McAnally. A solid fourth in that return on the dirt, Miss Serendipity switched to turf with steadily improving results. She was a tiring fourth after setting the pace in the February 17 Buena Vista, a closing third in the March 16 Santa Ana and an agonizing second in the Santa Barbara, but took another step forward here.
"They keep improving, the South Americans," McAnally said. "Sometimes they get on it right away, but even Bayakoa, her first race or two, she got beat, then she won a little stake at Del Mar by 10 lengths. Other ones, they come around right away. This mare took a little while, but she finally came around.
"She's run on anything, dirt, grass, soft and firm. I've liked her since we got her last summer at Del Mar. She's got a good disposition and everything about her was good and she finally put it all together. She wasn't really doing well the first few races. She had long hair. We did clip her; the only horse we clipped this year and when we did, she had little bumps all over her, and they all went away. She looks great right now."
Bred by Anselmo Emilio Cavalieri, Miss Serendipity is out of the Candy Stripes mare Marca Registrada. The dam is in turn a half-sister to Group 1 vixen Malinche, who produced multiple Group 1 winner Malibu Queen. Miss Serendipity's second dam, Go for Win, is a full sister to Group 1 scorer Lady Ling. This is also the family of Grade or Group 3 winners Saros Brig, He's a Saros and Tropical Toss.