Comparative prevails in the Ladies (Walter Wlodarczyk)
By Mary Eddy – NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Godolphin’s Kentucky homebred Comparative battled back gamely after being overtaken in the final turn by Saddle Up Jessie to post a determined neck score in Saturday’s $150,000 Ladies, a nine-furlong route for older fillies and mares, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The win marked a sweep of Saturday’s stakes at Aqueduct for two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox, who also sent out Gold Square’s Drum Roll Please to score in the $150,000 Jerome five races earlier.
Ridden to victory by Manny Franco, Comparative showed heart in the stretch run to notch her first stakes victory on the heels of a prominent one-mile optional claiming victory in November here. The consistent 4-year-old daughter of Street Sense has now won four of her last five starts and made her first stakes appearance since finishing off-the-board in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan in May at Pimlico Race Course.
Comparative emerged from post 5 and kept close to She’s Mo Bubbly, who showed early speed under Kendrick Carmouche to lead the field of six through an opening quarter-mile in 24.65 seconds over the fast main track.
Comparative tracked in second down the backstretch as Know It All Audrey and Saddle Up Jessie went head-to-head in third ahead of Rayya Valentine through the half-mile in 49.95. Approaching the turn, Saddle Up Jessie was given her cue by Sheldon Russell and went three-wide in pursuit of the lead in tandem with Comparative as She’s Mo Bubbly retreated steadily after three-quarters in 1:15.75.
Saddle Up Jessie got the jump on Comparative and had a head advantage at the top of the lane under a hand ride as she attempted to draw clear of her foe, but Comparative was finding her best stride as Franco showed a left-handed crop along the inside. Saddle Up Jessie clung to her precarious lead as Russell roused his charge for more at the sixteenth marker, but there was no denying a resurgent Comparative, who reached the wire first in a final time of 1:55.83.
Evidencias put in a late bid to land show honors 6 1/4 lengths back of Saddle Up Jessie with Know It All Audrey rounding out the superfecta. She’s Mo Bubbly and Rayya Valentine completed the order of finish.
Franco, who rode Comparative to a similar hard-fought victory last out off a six-month layoff, said he was concerned that Saddle up Jessie had the superior momentum.
“I saw Sheldon loaded. I was worried but at the same time my filly is one paced and I knew she’s going to keep battling for me and that’s what she did,” said Franco. “At the eighth-pole, he [Russell] stayed there right next to me and I said, ‘No. I’m going to come back.’ For me, he kind of moved a little too soon and that’s going to cost him late because that filly run two weeks ago.”
Dustin Dugas, Cox’s Belmont Park-based assistant, said Franco’s strength is key to Comparative’s success.
“We were really happy with her last breeze and how she was coming into this race,” said Dugas. “She’s been training well and doing well. Manny rode his ass off again – he just has to. He fits this filly really well. I’m really happy with her.”
Comparative, a full-sister to dual graded stakes-winner Shared Sense, banked $82,500 in victory and improved her record to 10-4-0-3. She returned $6.20 on a $2 win ticket.
Russell said Saddle Up Jessie, who entered from a victory in the Carousel on December 23 at Laurel Park for trainer Brittany Russell, was game off short rest.
“She broke good and put me in a good spot. I felt like we were following the top two horses,” Russell said. “I felt like she was always traveling the best to be honest. In hindsight, maybe I let her out a little too soon, but you could see I’m still holding on to her in case something like this did happen. But she inherited the lead too early and it’s a long stretch. I think that’s what happened.
“She pricked her ears and allowed Manny to come back,” Russell continued. “I always thought I had him beat. He was in a full-out drive, I was just sitting on her. She’s given us a great run on short rest, so fair play to her.”
Live racing resumes Sunday at the Big A with a nine-race card. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.