Holy Helena earns first graded score in The Very One Stakes

Holy Helena earns first graded score in The Very One Stakes
Photo: Courtesy of Gulfstream Park

Stronach Stables’ Holy Helena rallied through the stretch to earn her first graded-stakes victory Saturday in the $150,000 The Very One (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The 1 3/16-mile turf stakes for older fillies and mares was the first of nine stakes, including eight graded stakes, on a 14 race program headlined by the $400,000 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth.
Holy Helena established herself as one of North America’s leading 3-year-old fillies of 2017 when she defeated colts in the $1 million Queen’s Plate as well as the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks over Woodbine’s synthetic track last summer, but the Ontario-bred filly finished off the board in the Alabama (G1) at Saratoga and finished second against the boys in the Ontario Derby (G3) at Woodbine in her only two previous graded-stakes attempts.
The 7-2 second betting choice saved ground under Irad Ortiz Jr. behind a sensible pace set by 6-5 favorite Daring Duchess, who showed the way into the stretch after running a mile in 1:37.87. Holy Helena finally left the rail while splitting horses at the top of the stretch and drew away to win by 1 ¾ lengths. Daring Duchess, who was ridden by Jose Ortiz, held second, 1 ½ lengths ahead of Palinodie and jockey Joel Rosario.
Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, Holy Helena ran 1 3/16 miles in 1:54.67 to successfully follow up a Feb. 4 optional claiming allowance win at Gulfstream in her first career start on turf.
“The horse that was on the lead was the horse that we felt would be on the lead,” Jerkens said. “Irad told me he was going to let her settle and save some ground and that’s what he did. He rode her perfect. Once she got clear, she exploded. She had been training really well. She even got better since her last race. She got a little stronger in her hind quarters. I saw it today. Leaving the paddock, I was pretty confident. I was going to be pretty devastated if she didn’t show up.”
“She broke good and put me in a good position, Ortiz added. After that I just saved ground the whole way, following the speed horse and stayed on the rail. When we were in the clear, she exploded. Being one mile and three-sixteenths I just wanted her to relax. I knew she would get the distance. I didn’t want to be too close going in, so I wanted to save ground and wait for our moment.”
One race later, Jerkens saddled Team of Teams for a front-running score in the $100,000 Sand Springs, a mile turf stakes for older fillies and mares.
Team of Teams, an 11-1 longshot ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, went right to the lead to set comfortable fractions of 24.31 seconds and 49.53 for the first half mile before drawing away to a solid three-length victory.
The 4-year-old daughter of Exclusive Quality ran a mile in 1:35.94 to win her first stakes victory.

“She doesn’t seem to want to settle behind another horse early in a race,” Jerkens said. “That’s why you’ve got to keep them as good as you can and take a shot especially with a filly like her. You never know. Even though it’s a stake, you can’t get intimidated. The filly of Christophe’s [Clement, Celestine] is awful good but she’s not quite the filly she was last year or the year before maybe. It all has to come together.”

Grizzel closed to finish second, a half-length ahead of Island Reward, who was a neck ahead of 2-5 favorite Celestine, who lacked a late response after saving ground behind Team of Teams.
“In her last start there was a lot of speed in the race and I tried to rate behind the speed,” Velazquez added. She’s not a horse who likes to relax, but today there was no speed. We got to the lead and she was able to relax in front and was able to finish, which was the difference between her last two starts.”

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