Her Smile benefited from a punishing early pace and perfect piloting from jockey Javier Castellano to upset Monday’s $250,000 Prioress at Belmont Park, giving celebrity chef owner Bobby Flay his first Grade 1 victory.
Overlooked at 7-1 in the field of six 3-year-old fillies, Her Smile sat well behind Roman Treasure as she was prompted by Quantum Miss through fractions of 21.78 and 44.55. Castellano began moving the daughter of Include into contention on the turn, and faced with a three-wide wall of horses in the stretch, angled her towards the inside with 220 yards to go and up the rail for a half-length victory over the closing Pomeroys Pistol.
“It was a jockey’s dream trip,” said Castellano, currently the leading rider at Belmont Park. “I had to choose the best direction to take, and I’m glad it opened along the rail. It was a short cut – the best way to go.”
Her Smile’s time for the six furlongs was 1:09.44 over a fast track.
“Yes, first Grade 1! It was awesome, a great feeling,” said Flay, whose More Than Real won the Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last fall. “We thought this might be a little too short, we thought maybe seven furlongs might be a little bit better, but we just told Javier to be patient because it was all speed except her; we got the fractions we wanted and what a great ride!”
The victory was the first of 2011 for Her Smile, who most recently was third in the Grade 1, one-mile TVG Acorn at Belmont on June 11 and prior to that was 11th in the Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks on May 6 in her first start for Flay and trainer Todd Pletcher. Her new connections had contemplated sending Her Smile to the Grade 2, 1 1/16-mile Delaware Oaks on July 9, but decided only this morning to keep her in the Prioress.
“When we looked at the race, it kind of looked on paper as if she were the only one without any early speed, the lone closer,” said Pletcher, who indicated the next start for Her Smile could be the Grade 1, seven-furlong Test at Saratoga Race Course on August 6. “Ultimately, finally, we decided this morning that if they went real fast early, it would set up for her and she could close on them. I think she’s a versatile filly; obviously, the key was the set-up today.
Her Smile, now 4-2-2 from 10 lifetime starts, returned $16.20 for a $2 win wager to her backers in the Independence Day crowd of 6,689 and earned $150,000.
Alienation, sent off the 8-5 favorite following her 7 ¾-length allowance win at Hollywood Park for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, had the lead at the at the top of the stretch but could not hold on and finished 3 ½ lengths back in third.
“As soon as I asked her, she didn’t move on,” said John Velazquez, aboard the beaten favorite. “She finished up even down the lane – didn’t kick.”
Completing the order of finish were Quantum Miss, Roman Treasure, and Our Year.