MOTHER GOOSE STAKES | PURSE: $300,000 | 3-YEAR-OLD FILLIES | GRADE 1 | 1 1/16 MILES
Close Hatches became Juddmonte Farms' newest grade I winner when she captured the $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes June 22 at Belmont Park, leaving heavily favored Dreaming of Julia behind on the turn and cruising to a 7 ¼-length victory.
Joel Rosario turned in another excellent ride to guide Close Hatches to victory at odds of 4-1 for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
A Kentucky-bred daughter of First Defence out of the Storm Cat mare Rising Tornado, Close Hatches was coming off a distant runner-up finish to Midnight Lucky in the Acorn Stakes at Belmont May 27.
Close Hatches was timed in a solid 1:41.36 for the one-turn, 1 1/16-mile distance on a fast track.
"She was doing very well; she only ran 3 ½ weeks ago but she came out of it extremely well," said Mott. "She looked good, her color was good; I think she actually put on a little weight since then. It's one of those things that's hard to explain, why all of a sudden they start to really round into form. She was good before, but she really went into this one very nicely."
Dreaming of Julia, the 1-5 choice in the field of five sophomore fillies, rallied from last rounding the bend to nab Marathon Lady for second.
Close Hatches was the only stakes winner in the Mother Goose field besides Frizette winner Dreaming of Julia, who suffered a rough trip while finishing fourth as the 3-2 favorite in the Kentucky Oaks last time out.
Racing off the rail throughout, Close Hatches was fourth as Toasting went to the lead over Sister State with Dreaming of Julia settling into a pocket in third toward the inside. The fractions for the first half mile, :23.32 and :46.27, were solid as Close Hatches stalked from the four path. Close Hatches advanced on the leaders and hit the front approaching the five-sixteenths pole, completing six furlongs in 1:09.98 and reaching the head of the stretch comfortably in front.
Dreaming of Julia, edged to the outside, was shuffled back to last rounding the turn and was not responding to prodding from Velazquez as Close Hatches took command. Close Hatches led by 3 ½ lengths at mid-stretch while continuing to race well off the rail and continued to draw away under hand urging from Rosario.
"It was easy and I think it was only a one-horse race turning for home," said Rosario, who has been aboard Close Hatches in all of the filly's races. "She ran very good. She ran good last time, but in this race she ran better."
Dreaming of Julia appeared to be going nowhere while four wide into the stretch but eventually got going well enough to edge Marathon Lady, who enjoyed an inside trip but could not hold second. Toasting and Sister State trailed.
"She wasn't comfortable between horses, and I think she got shy from the time before when she got squeezed in the Oaks," said Velazquez of Dreaming of Julia. "Now she's between horses and getting shy in there. It's hard for her to get in there, and she didn't want to take it at all. That was it."
Millsec bred Close Hatches in Kentucky. Her sire raced for Juddmonte and the legendary Bobby Frankel, capturing the Forego Handicap, and was out of Juddmonte's multiple graded stakes winner Honest Lady. Close Hatches is the first foal out of the the Juddmonte-bred Rising Tornado.
Close Hatches won the first three starts of her career, including the Gazelle April 6 at Aqueduct Racetrack, before running seventh with a wide trip in the Kentucky Oaks. In her most recent appearance, she was beaten 6 ¼ lengths in the one-mile Acorn.
The victory, worth $180,000, boosted Close Hatches' bankroll to $451,300. She has won four of six starts.
Under equal weights of 121 pounds, Close Hatches paid $10.60, $2.60, and $2.10, while keying a $17.20 exacta.
The next start for Close Hatches could be the $300,000 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks July 20 at Saratoga Race Course.
"Now, she's got the Grade 1," said Mott. "There's no gun at our head to do anything. We'll wait until she's ready again. Right now, we'll try to keep her with her own age group, I suppose. [The Coaching Club] is something to consider. If she's doing as well as she was going into today, we'll have to give it strong consideration."
Dreaming of Julia was a record 21 ¾-length winner of the Gulfstream Park Oaks for trainer Todd Pletcher before her debacle in the May 3 Kentucky Oaks, when she was banged at the start and forced to steady while attempting to rally. She paid $2.10 and $2.10.
Marathon Lady, second last time in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for trainer Steve Hobby, paid $2.20 to show.