PRIORESS STAKES | PURSE: $300,000 | 3-YEAR-OLD FILLIES | GRADE 1 | 6 FURLONGS
Richlyn Farm's homebred Lighthouse Bay upset the $300,000 Prioress Stakes at Saratoga Race Course July 27, winning at odds of 21-1 while 2-5 favorite Kauai Katie failed to fire.
Confidently ridden by Joe Rocco Jr. through a large opening on the rail coming down off the turn, the 3-year-old Speightstown filly charged past Wildcat Lily to secure her first graded stakes win for trainer George Weaver. Final time for the six-furlong test was 1:09.29 on the fast main track.
Multiple graded stakes winner Kauai Katie made a bid three wide on the outside turning for home, but weakened in the stretch and was not persevered with.
"I was asking her the whole way and she wasn't giving me anything," Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez said of the Stonestreet Stables runner, who finished last in the field of six. "She just didn't fire today."
Wildcat Lily set the pace through a quick opening quarter in :22.22, and was pressured along by So Many Ways, who kept up at her throatlatch through a half in :45.12. Lighthouse Bay steadily picked up contenders from her inside spot, and when the rail opened with a tiring Wildcat Lily attempting to take it wire-to-wire, the eventual winner charged through to get the victory by half a length.
"I thought she'd be capable of maybe doing this at some point, and when this race came up with a short field we decided with the owners to go ahead and go in this race," Weaver said. "Her Beyer figures are a little light, but I looked at some sheets numbers and her sheets numbers put her a little closer into the mix of things.
"Thinking that Ju Ju Eyeballs is going to scratch in a six-horse field, it left us with what I thought was a good chance to at least get grade I stakes-placed, and you never know, you might hit a home run and we did.
"My filly, if she goes to the front, she doesn't run well. The two times she got to the lead she stopped. So, she's a stalker. She was right where I wanted to be, and he had horse, and luckily when he asked her she ended up being best when she got to the wire."
The victory was Weaver's first grade I in North America, and first internationally since 2005 when he took the Dubai Golden Shaheen with Saratoga County. It was a second Grade 1 win for Rocco Jr., who recently rode his first Grade 1 winner, Tiz Miz Sue, to victory May 27 in the Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park.
"Joe Rocco is an excellent jockey, and I was glad to have him," Weaver said. "I've ridden him a few times before and I have a lot of confidence in him. There's a lot of great jockeys up here, and our decision to enter the race came at a later hour, and I thought he was the best available."
"The three horses I thought were the horses to beat in the race all kind of lined up in front of me," Rocco said. "I was able to get to the rail and save ground behind them. When I called on her to shoot through on the rail, I had plenty of horse."
Lighthouse Bay returned $45.20, $14.80, and $27.20 while Wildcat Lily brought $5.40 and $9.70 with Irish Lute paying $17.80. So Many Ways, Little Rocket, and the beaten favorite rounded out the order of finish. Ju Ju Eyeballs scratched.
Lighthouse Bay came off a June 8 victory in the Jostle Stakes at Parx Racing to get the job done. Bred in Kentucky out of the Seeking the Gold mare Pay Lady, she has now won four starts from seven outings with a second and a third, good for earnings of $350,706.