Before the running of the Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course on February 18, a huge swarm of expectations had clustered like buzzing bees over undefeated Hoosier Philly, with the sophomore filly regarded as so good she might even be a premier candidate for the Kentucky Derby.
Yet by the time the Grade Two race was over, Godolphin’s homebred Pretty Mischievous had galloped home to the winner’s circle in the 1700m event and stamped herself as the new overall leader by qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks on May 5. Perhaps the least surprised person by the ‘big upset’ was Pretty Mischievous’ trainer, Brendan Walsh, who has long sensed what he has in the blue-blooded filly by Into Mischief out of Grade One winner Pretty City Dancer, by Tapit.
“We were quietly confident she’d be good enough and today we found out she is,” Walsh said, a pleased smile playing across his face during a televised interview after the race. “Now, we’ll see how she comes out of this, talk things over with the ownership team, and get her to be 110% on the big day in May.” Walsh also related that Pretty Mischievous has ‘never missed a beat’ from the time she made her debut a winning one last September at the track that hosts the Oaks, Churchill Downs.
For anyone connected with Godolphin, hopes always have been high for the filly. “Before she ran Brendan told me we had a really special one in the barn. I came over and worked her a couple of times, and we were really hot on her,” said jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who gave Pretty Mischievous a perfect ride in the Rachel Alexandra.
Gaffalione kept her close to the early pace before urging her forward on the outside to run down longshot Miracle, with Hoosier Philly finishing third after stumbling at the break. “She keeps improving, physically and mentally. She put it all together today,” Gaffalione added of Pretty Mischievous, who now has compiled an admirable record of four wins in five starts with her other effort a third after racing wide behind Hoosier Philly in the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes in November.
Pretty Mischievous now stands atop the Oaks qualifying leaderboard with 63 points, while UAE Oaks and 1000 Guineas winner Mimi Kakushi is second with 50 points. American Champion Juvenile Filly Wonder Wheel is next with 48 while Hoosier Philly has 25. It was a very big day at Fair Grounds for Walsh, who indicated Pretty Mischievous would have another race prior to the Oaks.
He also dispatched Godolphin homebred Lake Lucerne, with Gaffalione up, to capture her first career stakes victory in the 1700m Albert M. Stall Memorial on turf. Since Lake Lucerne is by Dubawi out of multiple American Grade One winner and $5.75 million mare Round Pond, and thus a half-sister to Grade 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 winner Long River, the win is particularly cherished in looking forward to the 6yos next career as a broodmare.
“Lake Lucerne has been threatening to do this for a while and it all fell into place for her today. It’s a great effort all round, from the team and Tyler, and it’s fantastic to get a Stakes win with her pedigree,” Walsh said. As an extra bonus, Godolphin’s Soft Touch, trained by Michael Stidham, finished a good second in the race to gain her first black type.
The 4yo Uncle Mo filly is a half-sister to Graded winners Lucullan and Innovative Idea, out of a halfsister to Godolphin’s multiple Grade One winner and young stallion Maxfield. Overall, it was another brilliant day of racing for Godolphin in America, as the stable notched a third triumph on the Fair Grounds card with maiden winner Comparative, a 3yo Street Sense filly who is a full-sister to multiple Graded winner Shared Sense.
Comparative’s win helped boost trainer Brad Cox to his landmark 2,000th career triumph as the trainer saddled four winners on the program including Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes victor Angel of Empire, who immediately became a Kentucky Derby candidate while scoring his initial Stakes win. Meanwhile, in New York, Godolphin celebrated a third Stakes winner of the day in homebred 5yo mare Frost Point, who is by the stable’s multiple Grade One winner and stallion Frosted and out of Balletto, famous as the most accomplished horse to emerge from Sheikh Mohammed’s efforts about 20 years ago to produce UAE-breds.
After being conceived and born at his small stud near Hatta, Balletto, a daughter of Timber Country, was sent to America where she became a millionaire Grade One winner who twice placed in Breeders’ Cup races. Lightly-raced Frost Point, trained by Bill Mott and previously Grade Three placed, zoomed to the early lead under Jorge Vargas Jr. and never looked back to score in the Heavenly Prize Invitational Stakes over 1600m on dirt at Aqueduct. Balletto now has produced two Stakes winners for Godolphin, after having previously yielded Villanesca, who also was Grade One placed. She has a juvenile full-brother to Frost Point and a yearling filly by Maclean’s Music.