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Weaver's Lighthouse Bay Surprises Rivals in Prioress

Trainer George Weaver, a fixture on the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit since going out on his own in 2002, won the first North American Grade 1 stakes race of his career Saturday when 21-1 shot Lighthouse Bay upset the $300,000 Prioress at Saratoga Race Course.


Weaver, a native of Louisville, Ky., and former assistant to Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Todd Pletcher and John Hennig, scored one other win at the highest level of racing when Saratoga County took the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in 2005.


"It's been a while," he said in the winner's circle after the Prioress, the only Grade 1 six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies in the country.


Lighthouse Bay, a Richlyn Stables homebred daughter of Speightstown, took the Prioress from off the pace, rallying past leader Wildcat Lily near the rail from fourth place to win by a half-length in a time of 1:09.29 under jockey Joe Rocco, Jr.


Kauai Katie, the 2-5 favorite, struggled to maintain position in third place behind dueling Wildcat Lily and So Many Ways and came in last in the field of six.


Lighthouse Bay paid $45.20 for a $2 win bet. Kauai Katie took $254,105 out of $317,208 in show pool wagers, and her off-the-board finish triggered a $27.20 show payout for the winner for a $2 bet.


After finishing third in the Miss Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Day and winning the Jostle Stakes on June 8 at Parx Racing, Weaver had Lighthouse Bay under consideration for the Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride on June 29 at Belmont Park but opted to give her more time.


"I thought she'd be capable of maybe doing this at some point, and when this race came up with a short field . . . we decided with the owner to go ahead and go in this race," Weaver said of the Prioress.


When the gate opened, Wildcat Lily, a recent Grade 3 stakes winner at Calder, set out for an opening quarter-mile in 22.22 seconds while kept in close company by So Many Ways.


Kauai Katie appeared in a good spot in third, but jockey Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez was pushing hard on her to keep up. Lighthouse Bay, meantime, came out of post position 3 and dropped to the inside to save ground.


After a half-mile in 45.12 seconds and five-eighths in 57.03, Wildcat Lily had put away So Many Ways and Kauai Katie. Lighthouse Bay, however, moved to the front under left-handed urging and got up to win.


Irish Lute rallied for third and was followed home by So Many Ways, Little Rocket and Kauai Katie.


"The three horses I thought were the horses to beat in the race all kind of lined up in front of me," Rocco said. "I was able to get to the rail and save ground behind them. When I called on her to shoot through on the rail, I had plenty of horse."


Trainer Todd Pletcher had no excuse for Kauai Katie, a five-time stakes winner who last year broke her maiden and won the Grade 2 Adirondack at Saratoga.


"She just didn't really fire today," he said. "Johnny [Velazquez] said she warmed up beautiful, left there a little flat and never really picked it up."


Lighthouse Bay won for the fourth time in seven starts. The $180,000 first-place purse increased her lifetime earnings to $350,706.


Weaver said he would consider running Lighthouse Bay next in the Grade 1, $500,000 Test at seven furlongs on August 24, Travers Day at the Spa.



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