17-1 shot California Angel scores upset victory in JPMorgan Chase Jessamine, earns Breeders’ Cup berth

October 14, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. – California Angel is going to California.

So said trainer George Leonard III after Chris Walsh’s California Angel rallied from far back to post a head victory over Diamond Wow in the 31st running of the $200,000 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine (G2) for 2-year-old fillies Wednesday afternoon.

“I thought I had a special filly from the beginning, but I never dreamed of being here (in the trophy presentation on the Keeneland turf course) and winning this. After she won (her Sept. 8 debut at Kentucky Downs), I heard all this talk and we decided to try this. It’s just been a dream come true. Everything’s worked well, got an excellent rider in (Rafael Bejarano). He gets along with her good. She made a perfect run. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Leonard III remarked.

On whether he knew he had this kind of filly: “Yes I did. I thought she could win with a little luck, honestly. We’re looking forward to California (and the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf-G1 on Nov. 5 at Del Mar.)”

California Angel with Rafael Bejarano up wins the 2021 JP Morgan Chase Jessamine for trainer George Leonard 3rd and owner Chris Walsh, 2021 Keeneland Fall Meet

Jockey Rafael Bejarano in front of trainer George Leonard III with owner Chris Walsh and connections at the trophy ceremony after California Angel’s JP Morgan Chase Jessamine victory. (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

With the victory, California Angel earned a fees-paid berth into the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) to be run Nov. 5 at Del Mar. The JPMorgan Chase Jessamine was the 10th and final Breeders’ Cup Challenge race offered by Keeneland to start the 17-day Fall Meet.

Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, California Angel covered the 1 1/16 miles on a turf course labeled as good in 1:44.30.

“She had a good turn of foot today. I just wanted to keep her out of trouble. (Down the stretch) I could have gone inside, but when I saw it was kind of tight, I wanted to get her clear and let her run. I know she was going to come running at the end. She did. She proved it today,” Bejarano commented.

California Angel was Leonard’s first starter in a graded stakes. She netted Bejarano his 19th Keeneland stakes win and first here since Oct. 8, 2010, aboard Wickedly Perfect in the Darley Alcibiades (G1).

Favored Turnerloose quickly bounded out for the lead in the field of 13 as California Angel raced near the rear of the field. With Florent Geroux aboard, Turnerloose maintained a daylight advantage until upper stretch when Diamond Wow applied pressure.

At the head of the lane, California Angel had one horse beat as Bejarano swung her eight wide for a clear run at the field. She was still 5 lengths back at the eighth pole and got up in the final yards to ease by Diamond Wow and Turnerloose.

Now 2-for-2 on the turf, California Angel is a Kentucky-bred daughter of California Chrome out of the Tiz Wonderful mare Sea Mona. California Angel increased her career earnings to $213,700 with Wednesday’s $120,000 check.

California Angel returned $37.60, $14 and $5.60. Diamond Wow, ridden by Mike Smith, returned $10 and $5.40 and finished a neck in front of Turnerloose, who paid $2.60 to show.

“The winner came from the two (post) and I came from the 13 post, and it hurt us distance-wise because I’d have to say I lost at least 2 lengths. Both turns I couldn’t really get in, but she ran dynamite. I saw her (California Angel) coming, but there wasn’t really a whole lot I could do about it,” Smith said.

Andie Biancone, assistant to her father, Patrick Biancone, trainer of Diamond Wow said: “Probably if she was an inch taller, she might have won. The 13-post position definitely impacted her performance today, but we are absolutely thrilled. She ran her heart out. She is a pleasure to work with every day. To be with her since she was a foal and to have her come here and finish second is amazing. I can’t even wrap my head around it.”

It was another length back to Dressed, who was followed in order by Opalina, Roughly a Diamond, Misthaven (IRE), Kneesnhips, Bhoma, Queen Judith, Rigby, Boxing Day and Ontheonesandtwos.

Click here for a replay of the race and the post-race interview with winning connections.

Racing continues Thursday with a 10-race program beginning at 1 p.m. ET.

For info on the Best Breeders’ Cup Seminar click HERE.

Keeneland Press ReleasePhoto: California Angel with Rafael Bejarano up wins the 2021 JP Morgan Chase Jessamine for trainer George Leonard 3rd and owner Chris Walsh, 2021 Keeneland Fall Meet (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

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