Saturday, March 10, 2007 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . March 10, 2007 . . . Half Heaven got exactly the race she needed in the $50,000 Wintergreen Stakes at Turfway Park Saturday, coming from off the pace to win by 1 1/2 lengths over a persistent Hayden Valley. After dueling for the lead as expected, Ella Belle finished a tiring third, 4 1/2 lengths back and a nose ahead of No Reason in fourth.
The early speed duel left the door open for Half Heaven, who was running easily in fourth before making her move at the three-sixteenths pole.
"I hustled her coming out of the gate because of the post position ," said winning rider Miguel Mena. "It's a mile race and the turn is right there. So I hustled her a little bit and got a good position, and then I knew I was going to win. I was trying to keep the 7 horse [Hayden Valley] behind me because she was the horse to beat.
"[Half Heaven] is the kind of filly who likes to be close to the pace," said Mena. "The last race [a 3 1/2-length loss to Ella Belle in the Likely Exchange], I was too far back and she didn't like that. "
Half Heaven finished the one-mile race for older fillies and mares in 1:37.91. The 8-5 favorite, she paid $5.20, $3.80, and $2.60.
Finishing 5th through 12th were Wrapped Up in You, Country Fair (UAE), Ballad of Bertie, Tru Attitude, Rashaund, Daring Julie, Sanguinity, and Hurricane Isabel. Tazotee did not draw in and was scratched.
The New York-bred Half Heaven now has three wins and one second in four consecutive Polytrack starts beginning with a win in the River Memories Stakes at Woodbine. All of her previous starts had been on turf. Her career record now stands at seven wins, seven seconds, and one third in 22 starts for earnings of $318,461. The five-year-old mare is trained by Dale Romans for Stronach Stables.
The win was the fourth on the day for Mena and put him one ahead of apprentice Alonso Quinonez as the meet's leading rider.
Racing continues Sunday at Turfway at 1:10 p.m.