Following a wildly successful sophomore campaign that saw her finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, Harvey’s Lil Goil made a successful return to the races on Saturday, holding off European import Lemista to take the Grade 3, $150,000 Beaugay for older fillies and mares at Belmont Park by a half-length in her seasonal debut.
Winner of last year’s Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland, Harvey’s Lil Goil hadn’t run since her surprise third-place finish in the 2020 edition of the Filly and Mare Turf in November at Keeneland, where she missed by just a neck to Audarya. As a 3-year-old, the daughter of American Pharoah also took the Grade 3 Regret at Churchill Downs and finished second in the Dueling Ground Oaks at Kentucky Downs in a productive year that commenced on dirt for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
Breaking from the rail in the Beaugay, run at 1 1/16 miles on Belmont’s inner turf course, Harvey’s Lil Goil was clearly fresh as she bounded out of the gate under Junior Alvarado, who reined her in to sit in second while longshot Platinum Paynter assumed control of the early lead and proceeded to set glacial splits of 26 seconds flat for the opening quarter-mile, 50.93 for the half, and 1:15.28 for three-quarters over the turf listed as good.
The tempo quickened appreciably as the compact field of six rounded the far turn, with the stalking Harvey’s Lil Goil putting her neck in front of Platinum Paynter by the time they completed the bend, as Nay Lady Nay and Civil Union, fifth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, lined up to take their shots on the outside.
Lemista emerged from cover along the inside and threatened to spoil Harvey’s Lil Goil’s comeback party in the stretch. With an eighth of a mile to go Harvey’s Lil Goil had inched away to establish a sizable advantage, but Lemista cut into that margin with every stride, making incremental progress throughout the final furlong before she ran out of ground late and had to settle for second behind her classy foe.
“There was a point around the half-mile pole where I checked to see where I was with my filly,” said Alvarado. “At that point, I figured out when I was going to pick it up. If I was going to be worried, it was going to be from someone from behind. This was a nice race for her comeback.
“She’s one of those fillies that I’ve been waiting for this whole winter,” added the winning rider. “I’m glad she’s back and that she pulled out the win today. I still feel that she wasn’t 100 percent, but she was good enough to beat this group today. She’s an awesome filly to have back again and I’m looking forward to this year with her.”
Owned by the Estate of Harvey Clarke and Paul Braverman, Harvey’s Lil Goil notched her fifth win from 10 career starts, in the process bumping her bankroll over the $800,000 mark. She returned $4.30 on a $2 win wager as the favorite and completed the distance in 1:43.44, an effort that could set her up nicely for a prospective start in the Grade 2, $750,000 New York on the week of the Belmont Stakes, Mott said.
“It's the way we thought it would play out on paper,” said Mott. “The horse that was on the lead figured to be on the lead. When she felt those horses coming from behind her, she held them safe. It looked like she still had something in the tank.”
Making her North American debut for Brown and owner Peter Brant, Lemista ran lights-out in defeat as she nearly overcame a dawdling early pace beneath Irad Ortiz, Jr. to add to her growing trophy case, which already includes a pair of graded wins in Ireland. She finished three lengths to the good of Platinum Paynter, who continued her good run on the NYRA circuit with another on-the-board finish at long odds, this time in a graded stake.
Platinum Paynter checked in a nose ahead of Nay Lady Nay on the wire, who was followed home by Civil Union and Thankful.
Claimed for just $12,500 last fall by trainer Juan Vazquez and owner Just In Time Racing, Platinum Paynter missed by a length when fourth in the Forever Together at 82-1 to close out her 2020 campaign at Aqueduct, then came back with a second-place finish at 21-1 in the Plenty of Grace on April 11 at the Big A before she outran her odds yet again in the Beaugay.
“She always tries hard,” said Luis Rodriguez Castro, jockey aboard Platinum Paynter. “We got a good second last time and now she finished third. I thought she did everything right. The other horses just fired up. I’m really happy with the way she ran. The trainer did a great job with her. She’s running really well and I think she can win one of these races.”