Hibaayeb demonstrated her staying ability with a rail-skimming
triumph as the favorite in Saturday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Sheepshead Bay
over 1 3/8 miles on Belmont Park’s Widener turf course.
Entering the race for fillies and mares off a third in a 1 1/16-mile
turf allowance at Gulfstream Park on April 2, Hibaayeb stalked the pace in
third behind pokey fractions of 50.75 and 1:16.10, waited for racing room on
the far turn, shot through an opening after pacesetter Belle Watling
relinquished the inside, and kicked strongly in the stretch to post a
one-length victory. Giants Play held off Cheetah by a neck to finish second.
“I was watching the horse on the lead [Belle Watling] and I know
she drifts out,” said winning jockey John Velazquez. “I was hoping
when she did drift out, there wouldn’t be somebody to push her back in.
Nobody wanted to pass her, so it worked out. I knew as soon as he [jockey Ryan
Curatolo] let go, she was going to get out, and sure enough [she did]. It
worked out this time.”
Hibayeeb, sent off at 7-5, returned to $4.90 to her backers in the
crowd of 6,904. The Godolphin Racing color-bearer completed the 1 3/8-mile trip
The slow pace came as no surprise to Rick Mettee, assistant to winning
trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
“That’s kind of the way we drew it up. We thought to lay
second in there and save all the ground we could,” said Mettee. “It
really went slow; they really slowed it down a lot. Luckily, the rail opened
when it did. It’s one of the races where she pulled the ultimate perfect
trip. Once she got up the inside, as slow as they were going, it was going to
be hard to outfinish her off those fractions.”
Hibaayeb has now won half her starts in North America, having captured
the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon at Hollywood
Park in October and
finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at
Churchill Downs in November. Prior to her arrival in the United States, Hibaayeb
had won two stakes at Ascot in England, taking the 2009 Group 1 Meon Valley
Stud Fillies Mile and the 2010 Group 2 Ribblesdale.
Bred in Great
Britain by Rabbah Bloodstock Limited,
Hibaayeb is now 4-2-3 from 14 starts. The 4-year-old daughter of Singspiel earned
$90,000 for her Sheepshead
Bay victory, pushing her
bankroll to $615,316.
Belle Watling faded to fourth, with Tarrip and La Luna de Miel
completing the order of finish. Choice Play, who formed a coupled entry with
Belle Watling, was scratched.