GAMELY STAKES | PURSE: $250,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | GRADE 1 | 1 1/8-MILES (TURF)
Under a flawless ride by Hall of Fame comebacker Gary Stevens, Glen Hill Farm's Marketing Mix held off Tiz Flirtatious in Monday's Grade 1, $250,500 Gamely at Hollywood Park, and so made a winning reappearance of her own.
The Tom Proctor trainee, who had been off nearly seven months since her runner-up effort in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita, was bet down to 3-2 favoritism in her return trip to Southern California. Lady of Shamrock was expected to be her principal opponent, but ended up making a limited impact, despite the presence of newly-minted pacemaker Miss Ellany.
In fact, Miss Ellany wasn't exactly blasting away from the gate, and Martin Pedroza had to bustle her along to get past Halo Dolly in the opening strides. Once getting the picture, Miss Ellany established steady fractions of :24 2/5, :48 1/5 and 1:11 4/5 on the firm turf. Marketing Mix was poised in third, and Tiz Flirtatious sat right off the favorite in fourth. Lady of Shamrock was anchored in her familiar spot at the rear.
Marketing Mix and Tiz Flirtatious crept closer to the leaders as the field continued its journey down the backstretch, in preparation for the final turn. When Miss Ellany gave way cornering into the stretch, Halo Dolly found herself inheriting the lead, but not for long. The big two were bearing down on her in tandem, Marketing Mix just to her outside and Tiz Flirtatious wider out.
Tiz Flirtatious actually poked her head in front of Marketing Mix at the top of the lane, and got the mile split in 1:35 2/5. Once Marketing Mix lengthened stride, though, she produced a telling burst and forged ahead. Yet Tiz Flirtatious was not done. Staying on relentlessly in the final yards, Tiz Flirtatious came again and clawed back most of the deficit.
The five-year-old Marketing Mix showed no ring-rustiness. Although the Medaglia d'Oro mare had drifted toward the inside by this point, and might not have had a good view of Tiz Flirtatious several paths away from her, she responded to Stevens' every call to keep her head in front. Spotting four pounds to the runner-up, Marketing Mix negotiated 1 1/8 miles in 1:47 1/5 and furnished mutuels of $5, $3.20 and $2.20.
The top two were 4 1/4 lengths clear of Lady of Shamrock, who closed belatedly to deprive Halo Dolly of third by a nose. My Gi Gi, Miss Ellany and Private Affair concluded the order of finish.
Stevens had last visited the Hollywood winner's circle almost eight years ago -- aboard Alphabet Kisses, following the A Gleam Invitational Handicap on July 9, 2005. In brilliant form since launching his comeback over the winter, Stevens added the Gamely to his recent coups for D. Wayne Lukas, with Oxbow in the Preakness and Skyring in the Dixie.
"Both (Julien Leparoux on Tiz Flirtatious) and I were both trying to make the winning move coming into the stretch," Stevens said. "About the sixteenth-pole we were getting them cranked up and his mare actually had a little better turn of foot than mine did, but we managed to get up in time.
"I thought I beat him, but he was so far out -- when I stood up it looked like he might have been in front -- Julien asked me, 'What do you think' and I said, 'I have no idea.' Two good performances by two very good mares.''
Leparoux complimented the winner, whom he rode regularly for a time.
"I put some pressure around the three-eighths pole," Leparoux said, "and actually got the jump on Marketing Mix and went by her, but she came back and beat us. Marketing Mix is a good mare. She did not run second in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf for nothing, but my mare is very good too and she ran a big race today."
"She had a chance to get by that mare," Tiz Flirtatious' trainer Marty Jones said, "and (Marketing Mix) just wouldn't let her get by. She ran her heart out. Those are two super nice mares. Just another jump and we would have gotten to her, but that's horse racing.
"I'm going to have to see how she takes this race. This was a hard race. It was a gut-wrenching race so we'll have to see how she responds. Hopefully she's still doing well at the end of the year so we can make the Breeders' Cup (Filly & Mare Turf November 1) at Santa Anita."
Gary Stevens exchanges congratulations with Glen Hill President Craig Bernick (Benoit Photos)
Marketing Mix now brandishes a line of 17-9-4-1, $1,809,518, reflecting seven stakes wins. After placing in the 2011 Fury Stakes and Woodbine Oaks on Polytrack, she improved markedly once Proctor transferred her to the turf. Marketing Mix rolled in the Wonder Where by 4 3/4 lengths in her first try on the surface, and added the Pucker Up by 3 1/4 lengths. Runner-up in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland, where she fared best of the American-based fillies, she wrapped up her sophomore season with a comprehensive success in the Mrs. Revere.
Marketing Mix kicked off 2012 on a winning note in a tough Keeneland allowance, beating Inglorious and Hungry Island. The form was reversed in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile on Kentucky Derby Day, when Hungry Island sprang a mild upset. Marketing Mix rebounded with a pair of victories at Woodbine in the Nassau and the Dance Smartly. She attempted the August 18 Beverly D. at Arlington, but moved belatedly and fell a head short of I'm a Dreamer. Marketing Mix scored her Grade 1 breakthrough in the September 29 Rodeo Drive at Santa Anita, her warm-up for the Breeders' Cup.
Originally set to take another crack at the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile on May 4, Marketing Mix was scratched because of the rain-softened ground. She was worth waiting for in the Gamely.
"She's a good mare," Proctor said. "She makes me look good, that's how good she is. That's hard to do. You never know how fit they are until they run. If they aren't they get beat, if they are they don't. She's always run well off a layoff."
The trainer also mentioned how he lined up Stevens for the mount.
"I told Gary at Keeneland, 'You might ride this filly, you ought to come over and work her.' So he did and everything worked out well.''
Stevens guided her in an April 18 work over the Polytrack.
"I was fortunate to work her three-quarters of a mile (in 1:14) at Keeneland and she was super strong," Stevens said.
"Very special to win the Gamely," Glen Hill Farm President Craig Bernick tweeted. "(The trainer's) dad W.L. Proctor won it with Foggy Note. Hopefully Marketing Mix will be in as many pedigrees."
Foggy Note won the 1969 Long Beach, the race that was later renamed after Gamely. She became the dam of influential sire Relaunch and ancestress of Glitterman, Rubiano and Tapit.
Bred by Sean Fitzhenry in Ontario, Marketing Mix was purchased by her current connections for $150,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. She was produced by the Kris S. mare Instant Thought, and her second dam, the multiple Grade/Group 3-placed Nimble Mind, is a full sister to multiple Grade 2 heroine Skimble, the dam of two-time Pacific Classic star Skimming. This is also the family of Grade 1 winner Contredance; Group 2 scorer and multiple Grade 1-placed Eltish; and One Thousand Guineas victress Wince, the dam of Group 1 queen and classic-placed Quiff.