West Coast invader Sweet Lulu shipped into the Spa from California and schooled her East Coast
competition. Despite today’s race being her first on traditional dirt, first
stakes race, and first race outside California, Sweet Lulu ran like she was
right at home and not even a speed duel or a furious stretch drive effort from
the runner-up could stop her win streak.
Straight out of the gate for the G1 Test Stakes, Sweet Lulu and Baby
J immediately hooked up on the front end. The two fleet fillies threw down
the gauntlet and blitzed through scorching fractions of 22:28 for the opening
quarter and 44:95 for the half. As the field turned for home, Baby J folded and
Wildcat Lily, who had patiently
tracked the dueling leaders, took up where Baby J left off and tried her best
to run down Sweet Lulu.
Wildcat Lily drew on even terms with her Californian rival,
but Sweet Lulu channeled her inner Gandalf, looked Wildcat Lily in the eye and told her, “You
shall not pass!” Wildcat Lily did manage to briefly head her rival, but Sweet
Lulu’s will to win saved the day, helping the filly get her head back in front.
Despite the speed duel which would have sapped a less courageous filly, Sweet
Lulu still had enough tenacity to turn back the Prioress runner-up’s bid.
My Happy Face settled
toward the back of the field and launched her bid in the turn. Even though she
was floated 7 wide coming out of the turn, she closed smartly to finish just a
neck behind Wildcat Lily, who was a head behind Sweet Lulu. So Many Ways,
Lighthouse Bay, Irish Lute, I’m Mom’s Favorite, and Baby J completed the order
After the grueling early pace, Sweet Lulu, under pressure
from Wildcat Lily and My Happy Face, came home in 38:50 to complete the 7
furlong race. With the winner’s $300,000 share of the half a million purse,
Sweet Lulu more than tripled her career earnings and proved that she was well
worth her yearling purchase price of $270,000 for owner Steve Beneto. She also justified trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s decision to dive straight into Grade 1 company
with the talented filly despite her having never faced that caliber of
competition before today.
Though Sweet Lulu had never raced on dirt prior to today,
she was not completely inexperienced over the surface. As a two-year old, the
Mr. Greeley filly trained at Pleasanton. Hollendorfer said that she liked it
and when he asked jockey Julien Leparoux
about a potential surface switch following the filly’s optional claiming
victory last out, Leparoux replied affirmatively, stating that he thought she
would handle the dirt better. Her gutsy win today proved them both right.
Hollendorfer stated after the race that the Breeders’ Cup
Filly and Mare Sprint was obviously a race he would take a look at but that he
hadn’t made any long-range plans for his newly minted Grade 1 winner.