Wine Princess wears the crown


Becky Winemiller's Wine Princess turned back a two-pronged challenge from Proud Pearl and Defy Gravity around the far turn and drew off with authority in the stretch to land Saturday's Grade 3, $101,000 Monmouth Oaks. The regally-bred filly finished up 2 1/4 lengths as the 9-5 second choice and paid $5.60, $3.60 and $2.80.

Allowed to set a moderate pace of :24 2/5, :48 4/5 and 1:12 4/5, Wine Princess had plenty left in the tank to finish up 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:44 under Shaun Bridgmohan. Proud Pearl, a 22-1 outsider, battled through the stretch with 2-1 third choice Jemima's Pearl and just edged that foe for second by a nose. The order of finish was completed by Final Escrow, 8-5 favorite Morrow Cove and Defy Gravity.

"No matter where she is in the race she always comes with a nice kick so there wasn't really any game plan going into the race," Bridgmohan said. "She's a very smart filly and she knows what's going on. When the field came to her at the top of the stretch, I had to get her attention a little bit, but after that she just spurted away."

Wine Princess debuted at Fair Grounds on March 8, finishing second going about 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. She rebounded to break her maiden by five lengths over Churchill Downs' one-turn mile on the main track, but proved again that turf might not be her preferred surface when fourth against allowance foes in her next start.

Last time, Wine Princess returned to the Churchill dirt and prevailed by 2 1/2 lengths against older foes in a second-level allowance at one mile. Her record now stands at 5-3-1-0, $138,238.

Bred in Kentucky by the Allen Paulson Living Trust, Wine Princess was a $475,000 Keeneland September yearling. The three-year-old is the result of a union between two Horses of the Year -- Ghostzapper and Azeri. The former was newly enshrined in the Hall of Fame this week while the latter, a Hall of Fame daughter of Jade Hunter, was also a three-time champion older mare from 2002-04, an 11-time Grade 1 winner and earner of more than $4 million.

Azeri, who was produced by Australian Group 3 winner Zodiac Miss, has also reared the Grade 3-placed Arienza. This is the extended family of multiple Grade 1-winning turf miler Silic.

"We couldn't be more proud of her," winning trainer Steve Margolis said. "She was a little slow to come around, but with her pedigree we always knew that if she stayed healthy she had tons of potential."