La Verdad made every step a winning one in the $100,000 Dancin Renee for New York-bred fillies and mares on Thursday at Belmont Park, breaking sharply from the gate and holding off a late charge from Willet en route to a 1 ¾-length victory.
Photo: chelsea durand, NYRA
La Verdad, trained by Linda Rice for Lady Sheila Stable, was away alertly under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., who was replacing his brother Jose, currently serving a three-day suspension. By the half-mile pole, the speedy filly had already opened up a two-length lead after running her first two furlongs in a sizzling 21.99 seconds and then a half in 44.68.
Entering the stretch, Ortiz had yet to ask his mount for run, and allowed runner-up Willet to get within striking distance. The early fractions did not take their toll on La Verdad, however, and the daughter of Yes It's True refused to let Willet pass as she cruised home to complete the six furlongs in 1:09.99.
"I felt [Willet] a little bit, but when I asked her I didn't hit her," said Ortiz. "Jose told me to have confidence that when you ask her, she's going to pick it up. I was waiting to feel [Willet], then started asking her and just showed her the whip, but I never hit her and she picked it up a little bit. She went pretty fast in the first part and kept going. I'm going to buy Jose dinner."
La Verdad, who now has nine wins from 11 starts, was using the Dancin Renee as a springboard to the Grade 2 HRTV Honorable Miss Handicap on July 28 at Saratoga Race Course.
"Coming out of a [one-mile race], I wanted to just keep her sharp," said Rice. "I did not anticipate that this race would have come up as tough as it did with Willet and Risky Rachel, so it wasn't the prep I was looking for, but it will get us to the Honorable Miss."
La Verdad enhanced her bankroll to $606,700 and returned $2.40 on a $2 win wager.
The Jimmy Iselin-trained Willet proved second best, as she finished 7 ¾ lengths clear of Risky Rachel, who was another six lengths ahead of Clear Pasaj.