American Apple Polishes off Rivals in G3 Matron

October 8, 2022

American Pharoah filly stuns with 47-1 upset

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – KatieRich Stables’ Kentucky homebred American Apple stunned her 10 rivals with a well-timed off-the-pace victory to provide trainer Daniel Leitch his first stakes win in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Matron, a six-furlong outer turf sprint for juvenile fillies, at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet. 

A bay daughter of American Pharoah, American Apple made her first start against winners after scoring a nose victory last out in a September 14 maiden special weight sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Kentucky Downs. There, she stalked in third and unleashed her run down the stretch to nab the victory at the wire. She delivered a similar performance in the Matron under patient handling by Eric Cancel to rally from 1 1/2 lengths off the pace and secure the neck victory over the late-closing Redifined.

“I brought her up Wednesday and it seemed like she shipped up fine,” said Leitch, who is based at Keeneland. “We took her to the track on Friday and she was feeling good. It seemed like she shipped up fine and we figured she would run big today. She had been eating up and doing everything right since we got here.”

American Apple, away well from post 3, sat comfortably as Fleetfooted rushed up to lead the field through an opening quarter-mile in 22.55 seconds over the good turf. Sweet Harmony held second position while Redifined awaited her cue from jockey Javier Castellano in ninth. 

American Apple #3 Inside. Photo by Adam Coglianese

Approaching the turn, American Apple made her bid towards the dueling pair of Fleetfooted and Sweet Harmony while post-time favorite Danse Macabre shifted out a path along the rail to try and find racing room around American Apple. After the half-mile in 46.06, American Apple drifted out a bit from the rail and brushed with Sweet Harmony, leaving behind Danse Macabre to fight on for show honors. With a stubborn Fleetfooted tiring and American Apple overtaking the lead in mid-stretch, Redifined closed furiously down the center of the racetrack under right-handed urging from Castellano, but could not catch a game American Apple, who crossed the wire first in a final time of 1:09.59. 

It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to Danse Macabre in third with Dontlookbackatall rounding out the superfecta. Completing the order of finish were the slow-starting pair of Personal Pursuit and Sweetlou’sgotaces, How Lovely, Little Linzee, Fleetfooted, Sweet Harmony and Atomic Girl. Determined Jester, who is entered in tomorrow’s Grade 3 Futurity, and main-track only entrant Apple Picker were scratched. 

The 28-year-old Leitch, who won with his first starter last September at Horseshoe Indianapolis, said he was pleased to see American Apple find room along the rail. 

“I figured the two horse [Danse Macabre] would be right there the whole time,” said Leitch. “I told Eric to sit off the two and just make a run at her, just like she did at Kentucky Downs. Thank God Eric went on with him and just sat behind. I was kind of nervous when he went on the inside because I was hoping there was a hole. Thank God a hole opened up. Everything worked out.” 

The Matron was the 51st start for Leitch, who worked for trainers Ray Handal and Mark Hubley before going out on his own. 

“I started training last September. I was doing sales prep, foal watch, breaking the babies and I slowly wanted to get on the track,” said Leitch. “I worked for Ray for a little bit and then I started working for Mark for four years and then I got my chance. I won my first start with a filly named Midway’s Angel at that got me off to a good start. Ever since that, we’ve just been rolling.”

Eric Cancel gives American Apple a congratulatory pat. Photo by Joe Labozzetta

Cancel said American Apple was content to stalk the pace. 

“The filly broke very well from the gate, and I saw that she didn’t want to be in front, so I let the other two go and covered her up. Once I had an opening at the quarter-pole to go, I asked her, and she did the job.

“It didn’t matter if it would have been a little bit quicker, she could be there,” Cancel added. “She just wants to be covered up. Once I did that, she was just waiting for me to ask her to do her job.”

Larry Doyle of KatieRich Stables said the risk of running American Apple in a tough spot paid off. 

“We didn’t think we were 30-1, but we thought there were seven speed horses in there,” said Doyle. “We knew what we had, and it was going to be a tough race. We were only here because there was nowhere else to run. If there were an easier spot, that’s where we would have been.”

Doyle added that American Apple could contest the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint on November 4 at Keeneland, but could also look at the $120,000 Stewart Manor on November 5 at the Big A. 

Owners from KatieRich Stables, Eric Cancel and trainer Daniel Leitch celebrate the victory. Photo by Adam Coglianese

Out of the KatieRich-campaigned graded stakes-placed Clever Trick mare Miss Mary Apples, American Apple is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire Lady Apple. Returning $97 for a $2 win wager, American Apple banked $82,500 in victory to increase her total purse earnings to $185,700. 

Castellano said runner-up Redifined was there for him when he called on her.

“I had a beautiful trip. I’m very satisfied with the way my filly did it today,” said the Hall of Fame rider. “I didn’t see a lot of speed in the race, but I can’t complain, my horse came from behind and finished well.”

Live racing resumes Sunday at Belmont at the Big A with a loaded nine-race card, featuring the Grade 2, $250,000 Beldame in Race 3; the Grade 3, $150,000 Futurity, a “Win And You’re In” for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, in Race 6; and the Grade 3, $150,000 Knickerbocker in Race 8. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern. 

By Mary Eddy
Main Photo by Chelsea Durand

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