Perhaps the gods of Canadian racing have spoken.
Even though racing luck had nothing to do with the result, it may really be the only thing that explains why Inglorious lost Sunday’s $250,000 Selene Stakes, her first appearance in a Woodbine race since her smashing score in the $1 million Queen’s Plate.
The daughter of Hennessy broke well and, despite the fact she was more forwardly placed than ever due to the slow pace, she appeared to settle well behind the pacesetter and eventual winner Smart Sting.
Even though Patrick Husbands was able to sneak off the fence with the second choice Anne’s Beauty, it appeared that Inglorious was in perfect position to stalk two fillies that were playing cat-and-mouse.
The Josie Carroll trainee encountered minor traffic problems when the Augustin Stable invader Dynamic Holiday made a premature rush on the outside, forcing her into a bit of a lockdown, but this happened early enough in the 1 1/16-mile contest that it shouldn’t have posed a problem – and it didn’t.
While Anne’s Beauty was lined up to take first crack at a leader that was an unknown commodity, showing front-running ability she had thus far not shown, sitting third should have given Inglorious the upper-hand.
Good theory would suggest that at some point Anne’s Beauty would eventually turn up the pressure on Smart Sting and the pace would quicken. Once this battle took enough of a toll on both horses, Inglorious would come with her run and it would be lights out.
The battle never really materialized. After three-quarters, the Selene became a sprint to the wire.
Turning for home, jockey Luis Contreras had two options with Inglorious. The leading pilot could thread his way between Anne’s Beauty and Smart Sting on the rail or he could angle outside of the pair. He opted for the former and wound up in a fierce tussle with multiple stakes winner Anne’s Beauty that lasted the length of the stretch.
Trouble was, the fight wound up being for second. Just as this duel was getting underway, Smart Sting had found a serious second gear and had spurted away, capitalizing on the energy she had saved through an initial three quarters in 1:14 3/5. As it turned out, Smart Sting was the only filly that did any serious sprinting in the final five-sixteenths of a mile, finishing the affair in :29-flat.
Having sat just off the same slow fractions, Anne’s Beauty wasn’t able to capitalize in the same way, perhaps showing her own distance or two-turn limitations at this class level. Nonetheless, the Artie Schiller filly showed a great deal of heart in staving off Inglorious to her inside.
The failure of early or even middle pace to materialize is always a difficult situation for a stretch-runner to overcome. Inglorious had been in such situations before. The trouble comes when an above-average runner is able to act industriously with such fractions. Smart Sting deserves full credit for taking advantage like a good horse is supposed to.
For Inglorious, there’s nothing wrong with losing to a well-prepared new face from a Hall of Fame stable that was able to demonstrate new tactics over a surface she had yet to race over. What’s more concerning is that she couldn’t outfinish Anne’s Beauty, a filly that she had handled with relative ease in the Spring’s La Lorgnette Stakes at the same distance.
Indeed, the pace didn’t materialize and many will offer her a mulligan if she winds up in a race where the tempo is quicker. But there are great expectations when a horse’s name is used in the same sentence as the word champion, Grade 1 or Horse of the Year. Great horses are supposed to find ways to win despite a poor pace scenario or a tight trip inside a gutsy rival. There aren’t excuses with great horses, they just perform.
The Inglorious we’ve come to expect is supposed to dig deep and find the :28 and change necessary to outrun Smart Sting to the wire and win the Selene. That’s the spine-tingling type of performance that’s supposed to make us say, “Wow!” and mail in our Horse of the Year vote.
Instead, for the second consecutive time in her career, the stretch-running amazon failed to pass a single horse. In the Selene, she was third throughout and was all out to get by Anne’s Beauty and couldn’t do it.
Maybe something is physically amiss with the Canadian-bred. Maybe she’s plateaued and the rest of the division has caught up. Maybe she isn’t as talented as was once thought and a one-dimensional running style that was once flattering has now become a liability in the deeper end of the talent pool.
We may never know. Sometimes, the racing gods step in and speak in strange ways. Considering the disappointing campaign that was engineered for her after her victory in the first jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown, it wouldn’t be surprising if a surreal force stepped in to send a message about placing the Grade 1 cart before the horse.
Here’s one Canadian racing fan hoping that this message was heard loud and clear.