Proviso, the even-money favorite, took the lead with 220
yards to go and held off a hard-charging Phola to win the Grade 1, $400,000
Just a Game presented by VisitNassauCounty.com on the turf Saturday afternoon
at Belmont Park.
Ridden by Mike Smith, Proviso raced on the outside of
pacesetter Speak Easy Gal as she led through opening fractions of 24.54, 48.21
and 1:11.36. Moving up as the field of six fillies and mares straightened for
home, the 5-year-old Dansili mare fought her way to the front approaching the
furlong marker and had enough left to stave off the late bids from Phola and My
Princess Jess, hitting the wire a half-length in front in 1:34.09 for the mile
over a firm turf course.
“She ran great,” said Smith. “She’s probably better when she’s
running at a target. The race came up light on the speed part. Bill [Mott] told
me not to change anything; that we were going to be laying second, and to go
from there. It all worked out.”
It was the second straight Grade 1 victory for Proviso, who
defeated males in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita on March 6 in her
previous start. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Proviso, who began her
career in Europe and then was sent to the late Bobby Frankel last fall, is now
3-1-0 in five starts in the United States.
“I thought the race might shape up as it did, laying second,
and that’s what happened,” said Mott, who indicated the Grade 1 Diana at
Saratoga Race Course on July 31 was a likely target for Proviso.“I thought she
might accelerate quicker than she did, but they were cruising right along.”
Proviso returned $4.20 for a $2 win bet as she earned
$240,000, boosting her bankroll to $1,325,473 for Juddmonte Farms. Overall, she
is 7-3-5 from 20 lifetime starts.
Phola, whose three-race win streak was snapped by the loss,
finished a neck in front of My Princess Jess, who in turn was followed by
Cherokee Queen, Fantasia, and Speak Easy Gal.
The Just a Game, run for the 17th time, was one
of five graded stakes on the undercard for the 142nd running of the
Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes.