Sunday, November 30, 2008 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . November 30, 2008 . . . Waiting out a speed battle far in front of her, the veteran mare Afleet Angel revved up in the final furlong to win the $50,000 Holiday Inaugural Stakes at Turfway Park Sunday, opening day of the Holiday Meet.
Simply Seattle rushed to the front as usual to start the six furlongs and flew through the first quarter in :21.78, with Sea the Joy just behind and Pola's Place third on the rail. Pola's Place briefly took the lead at the half, timed in :45.29, but could not sustain the pace. Meanwhile, Afleet Angel and jockey Willie Martinez were biding their time near the back of the 12-horse field. Approaching the stretch, Martinez wove Afleet Angel through horses to reach the far outside, and the two took aim on the wire while running seven or eight paths off the rail. Vote Early made a late run of her own toward the outside and School Girl put in a bid from between horses, but Afleet Angel was in full stride by then and drove past to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Vote Early was second, three lengths ahead of Simply Seattle in third. Final time was 1:11.94.
Afleet Angel came in to the Holiday Inaugural after finishing sixth, beaten 11 lengths, on the turf at Woodbine, but trainer Paula Bacon marked that race down as a lesson learned. "I always ship this mare the day of [a race]," said Bacon. "She tunes in when you ship her; it’s not like she's nervous or anything but she knows it's time. At Woodbine I shipped her in the day before, and she stayed up all night and didn't eat. I think the trip the day before hurt her at Woodbine, so for this race we shipped in today."
Bacon plans to run the 8-year-old daughter of Northern Afleet once more, probably at Mountaineer, and then retire her.
Afleet Angel was supplemented to the Holiday Inaugural after owner Lori Rice and Bacon opted for the sprint instead of next Saturday's 1 1/16-mile My Charmer Stakes. The decision bumped the mare’s career record to 13 wins, 7 seconds, and 7 thirds from 41 starts going both short and long and boosted her bankroll to $401,791. The Holiday Inaugural is her second stakes win, added to the HBPA Stakes two starts back at Presque Isle Downs.
Afleet Angel was the bettors' fifth choice at 10-1, and she returned $22.40, $9.60, and $7.80.
Finishing fourth through 12th in the Holiday Inaugural were School Girl; Conjuress; Aspiring, who drew in off the also-eligible list; Miss A. Bomb; Mrs Petoski; Sea the Joy; Unspoken Word; Pola’s Place; and the 2-1 favorite Tequilas Dayjur. Downtown Drifter was an early scratch and Proud Heiress scratched as an also-eligible.
Racing resumes at Turfway on Wednesday at 5:30pm.