Illuminant stalks and pounces to win the Grade 1 Gamely

June 03, 2016 05:21am
Illuminant Gamely 615 X 400
Photo: Benoit Photo

Despite a competitive run against Wekeela in their last race, most of the money in the holiday weekend’s lone Grade 1 race came in on that one rather the three-time winner on Southern California turf, Illuminant. That clear-cut decision proved to be a mistake as Illuminant enjoyed a perfect journey under Flavien Prat on her way to a decisive victory over the heavily favored French import in the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes, and in the process earned the honor of becoming ZATT’s Star of the Week.


Only a length and a half apart when they ran second and third respectively behind the champion mare Tepin in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley last month at Keeneland, bettors flocked to lay money down on Wekeela, who was running her second time in America for trainer Chad Brown, making her the overwhelming 4-5 favorite. Meanwhile, Illuminant was given plenty of respect in her second attempt in Grade 1 racing, but back on her familiar home turf, the Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners runner was let go at 5-1. That price looked a bargain as she gained an excellent stalking position behind moderate early fractions of the old pro, and Gamely runner-up of last year, Fanticola.


With little pressure from anyone else in the field, including Wekeela, who was back in sixth early, Illuminant was able to comfortably track the leader through an early pace of :24.00 and :48.04. They continued 1-2 through the backstretch, until Prat made his move on the Mike McCarthy trained filly. By this time, Wekeela was getting into gear on the outside, with Kerri Belle right behind her.


When the real running began, Illuminant quickly powered by Fanticola, who offered little resistance to the takeover. Suddenly in the lead, she sprinted home, giving no chance to the rally attempts of those behind her. The favorite did best of the rest, but never looked like she had any chance of running down Illuminant. On the wire, she was a one-length winner over Wekeela, while Elektrum rallied on well to get up for third. Final time for the nine furlongs on the firm turf was 1:48.34


“It’s pretty exciting to win a race like this,” said McCarthy. “I thought she would run well today. She’s a very honest filly, tries hard and I thought the mile and an eighth would be right up her alley. Fanticola is a very tough mare and I was just kinda hoping we would have enough to get to her. Luckily today, we did. I didn’t give Flavien a whole of instructions before the race. I didn’t think he needed it.”


As the Gamely’s second choice, Illuminant paid $12.40, $5.00, and $3.40 across the board, while the exacta over Wekeela returned $33.00.


After running a good second in her first two turf tries in June and August of last year, Illuminant exploded to a 6 ¾ length victory in a maiden turf race last October. Since then, she has consistently fired on the turf while moving up in class. Today’s win was her first in stakes company. With today’s big victory in the $300,000 Gamely, Illuminant, a four-year-old daughter of Quality Road, earned her fourth win in eleven career starts. More impressively than that, she bumped up her career turf record to 8-4-2-1, with her only out of the money result coming when she finished a closing fourth, beaten only one length in January’s Grade 2 Monrovia at 6 ½ furlongs.


Last time she was no match for Tepin, but then again, who is? Today, Illuminant proved that she is only getting better, and save the reigning Female Turf Champion, it looks like she can run with anyone in the country. Most importantly, she is now a Grade 1 winner.


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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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