It's a trait that fascinates race fans like no other. When a horse drops back to last, well behind even the second to last horse, before unleashing a firestorm rally that carries their number from last to first, it is always thrilling. When this last-to-first rush happens in only the time it takes the horses to travel the distance of the stretch, it creates an even bigger buzz in the grandstand. When all of this happens in a grade 1 stakes race, then we are talking about something noteworthy. Today, I am pleased to tell you about just such a performance turned in by the excellent filly, Sassy Image.
The $350,000 Princess Rooney, at six furlongs for older females, was the closing feature of Calder’s great day of sprinting yesterday called the Summit of Speed. In a day filled with sprinting excellence, it was this last race that produced the biggest excitement. Sassy Image looked like a filly who simply was not running her race for the first two-thirds of the contest. Normally a horse who likes to do her best running in the stretch, Sassy Image was way farhter out of it than usual, and much farther back than she had ever been before in her career.
Rider Mike Smith said of the 124 pound highweight, “she just wasn’t handling the racetrack at all in the early going.” For all intents and purposes it looked the race favorite was about to waste her trip to Miami. No doubt patrons in the crowd, who had backed the 8-5 favorite, saw little hope for cashing in anything on the Dale Romans trained miss. That is before something miraculous happened.
As if launched from a cannon, Sassy Image suddenly began to get hold of the Calder strip. The rest of the field, some of whom had been part of a blazing :21 and change opening quarter, began to bunch up at the top of the stretch. Save Sassy, it looked like anyone's race. Slingshotting off the turn, she came into the stretch about ten wide and still clearly in last. Even at the eighth pole, she still looked too far out of it to make a serious challenge … but she was coming. Way out in the middle of the track, she was now gobbling up ground as if she had channeled her inner Silky Sullivan. For Sassy Image, the race was on.
Much closer to the rail, Musical Romance had emerged from the pack, and was setting sail for her initial grade 1 win … but Sassy was coming. Oh boy, was she coming. Eight paths farther out than her rival, she was striding out to the wire. The only question was whether the wire would come too quickly. It did not.
In one of the most exciting races of the year, Sassy Image had come from tenth and last in the stretch to nail Musical Romance at the wire to win by a neck. Romans called it probably her most impressive race ever. I would have to agree, Dale.
The victory in which she looked more like a copper locomotive than flesh and blood, the four-year-old chestnut daughter of Broken Vow improved her lifetime record to 7 wins in 14 starts, and is now a perfect 3 for 3 sprinting this year. In the last two months Sassy Image has proven to be the filly to beat in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, to be run in less than four months, and contested at her favorite racetrack, Churchill Downs.
If you haven't yet seen the race, sit back, take a deep breath, and get ready to be amazed.