Crown Imperial Aims To Make the Grade in G2 Jessamine

October 3, 2023

Crown Imperial wears the crown in the Untapable Sep. 13 at Kentucky Downs (Grace Clark/Kentucky Downs)

Jessamine Is Win and You’re In for Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

By Amber Joyce

LEXINGTON, Ky.— Much of the attention Friday at Keeneland will be on undefeated Brightwork in the Darley Alcibiades (G1), but trainer John Ortiz has an extra shot to win big with a two-year-old filly when he sends out Crown Imperial in the Jessamine (G2).

A homebred for 4 G Racing, LLC, Crown Imperial was last seen storming home from well off the pace to notch a 1 ¼ length upset victory in the $500,000 Pepsi Untapable Sep. 13 at Kentucky Downs. It was the first stakes win and third turf start for the daughter of Classic Empire.

“She’s a small filly with the biggest heart,” Ortiz told Kentucky Downs publicity after his filly’s triumph in the Untapable. “She got started in Ocala with Brightwork. They were partners, stablemates down there. I think they were doing a little planning in the paddock, I guess. They knew they wanted to be the best, so here we are.”

Prior to becoming a stakes winner and fueling graded stakes dreams for her connections, Crown Imperial dabbled in a trio of stakes races and never finished worse than third. She contested the Bolton Landing Aug. 20 at Saratoga and ultimately finished second by a nose behind Amidst Waves, who had strung together two wins, including a stakes. 

That aforementioned stakes won by Amidst Waves was the Colleen July 29 at Monmouth Park, which Crown Imperial also gave a go. She was trying turf for the first time and after being bumped at the start and again around the turn, she wound up third, beaten 1 ¾ lengths.

The Colleen came three weeks after a loss by a head in the Prairie Gold Lassie at Prairie Meadows. Crown Imperial was a three-length winner on debut at Horseshoe Indianapolis.

Like her Grade 1-winning stablemate Brightwork, Crown Imperial will also face the looming distance question mark. The 1 1/16 mile distance of the Jessamine will be her first time traveling beyond the Untapable distance of six-and-a-half furlongs. 

Ricardo Santana Jr. will be aboard again from post position four.

Toupie romps on debut July 1 at Laurel Park (Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)

A pair of stakes-placed maiden winners will participate in the Jessamine, one being Wertheimer and Frere’s homebred Toupie, trained by Graham Motion. 

Toupie made every pole a winning one on debut, scoring by eight lengths under a hand ride July 1 at Laurel Park. She then switched from sprinting on dirt to sprinting on turf and boasted a solid second-place effort against the boys in the Exacta Systems Rosie’s Sep. 9 at Colonial Downs. No Nay Mets, the winner of that race, has three stakes wins on his resume. 

Carlos Santamaria—former assistant to California-based trainer Simon Callaghan—notched his first victory out on his own when Chris Curtis’ Bella Haze drove clear to a maiden-breaking score Aug. 5 at Ellis Park. He’ll look for a bigger win with that same filly in the Jessamine. 

Following her second-out maiden win over the main track at Ellis, Bella Haze gave turf, routing, and stakes company all a try in the $500,000 Global Tote Juvenile Fillies Sep. 10 at Kentucky Downs. She led the way throughout, only to be run down by undefeated Austere, having to settle for second three lengths behind that rival. 

Joel Rosario returns to ride from post position seven. 

Smooth Waves coasts to an easy maiden score Sep. 10 at Kentucky Downs (Courtney Snow/Past The Wire)

Along with Bella Haze, a slew of other fillies enter the Jessamine off of efforts at Kentucky Downs. Perhaps the one with the most potential is Three Diamonds Farm’s Smooth Waves [Tyler Gaffalione, post position one], who prompted the pace and drew off to a 9 ¼ length victory Sep. 10. 

Trained by Mike Maker, Smooth Waves came into that one-mile maiden affair with three races under her belt, all fifth-place finishes in turf maidens on the NYRA circuit. Future stakes winners Amidst Waves and She’s Fire are a couple of notable names she ran into. 

Also coming in fresh off a Kentucky Downs maiden win is Pharoah’s Wine [Martin Chuan, post position eight], a homebred for owners William Pacella, Nancy Delony, and Frank Shoop. 

Pharoah’s Wine debuted in an Ellis Park maiden going five furlongs on the dirt (the same debut race as fellow Jessamine entrant Bella Haze) and finished a dismal fifth of 12. Trainer Dale Romans switched her to turf and stretched her out in distance, which proved a success. 

She finished second in her first turf start and then it was on to Kentucky Downs Sep. 2, where she edged away to score by 3 ¾ lengths. The runner-up in that race, Robert Schaedle’s Moonlight Gambler [Luan Machado, post position three], will look to break her maiden in the Jessamine for trainer Ben Colebrook. 

Asternia breaks her maiden Sep. 13 at Kentucky Downs (Grace Clark/Kentucky Downs)

The third and final Kentucky Downs winner in the 11-horse Jessamine is Asternia [Julien Leparoux, post position 11]. Asternia started her career on dirt at Ellis Park before she tried turf next-out on Sep. 13, notching a three-quarter length win in gate-to-wire fashion.

Randy Morse trains and is also co-owner in partnership with Randy Patterson and Sam Vogel.

Rigney Racing, LLC homebred Buchu [Martin Garcia, post position 10] ups in class after breaking her maiden Sep. 23 at Churchill Downs over the turf course there. After two even efforts on dirt and a troubled sixth on the turf at Saratoga, Buchu finally broke through in Louisville, stalking and pouncing to a 4 ¾ length victory. 

That maiden-breaking win occurred at 1 1/16 miles, making Buchu the lone Jessamine entrant with a win at the distance. Phil Baeur trains. 

Eoin Harty will send out Godolphin homebred Abeyance [James Graham, post position], a 4 ½ length gate-to-wire winner last-out in a Horseshoe Indianapolis maiden. 

Shipping down from Canada and leaving Mark Casse’s Woodbine string is Time to Dazzle [Luis Saez, post position two] for owner Tracy Farmer. Time to Dazzle has run once and has won once, kicking clear for an impressive three-length triumph Sep. 17. 

Casse will aim to win the Jessamine a second time, having won it in 2016 with eventual Grade 1 winner La Coronel. 

Rounding out the field and still looking for her first win is Appellate [Irad Ortiz, Jr., post position nine] for Todd Pletcher and ownership of Medallion Racing, Omar Aldabbagh, CMNWLTH, Mark Stanton, Lennie Rhoades, and Barry Fowler. 

Appellate has run twice, both 1 1/16 mile turf maidens at Saratoga this summer, and finished second by a head in both tries. Hard to Justify, who most recently bested Appellate, is entered in Wednesday’s Miss Grillo (G2) at Aqueduct. Appellate is cross-entered. 

A win by Appellate in the Jessamine would give Pletcher his fourth win in the race. 

The Jessamine presented by Keeneland November is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In, providing the winner with an automatic and free entry into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).

Keeneland’s Friday card also features the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix (G2) and the Darley Alcibiades (G1), Win and You’re In races for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), respectively. 

The field for the Jessamine (G2) with riders, trainers, and weights from the rail out:

PostHorseJockey TrainerWeight
1Smooth WavesTyler GaffalioneMike Maker118
2Time to DazzleLuis SaezMark Casse118
3Moonlight GamblerLuan MachadoBen Colebrook118
4Crown ImperialRicardo Santana, Jr.John Ortiz118
5ToupieFlavien PratGraham Motion118
6AbeyanceJames GrahamEoin Harty118
7Bella HazeJoel RosarioCarlos Santamaria118
8Pharoah’s WineMartin ChuanDale Romans118
9AppellateIrad Ortiz, Jr.Todd Pletcher118
10BuchuMartin GarciaPhil Bauer118
11AsterniaJulien LeparouxRandy Morse118

Contributing Authors

Amber Joyce, Editor

Amber Joyce grew up with a practically innate love for racehorses, her mom being a former exercise rider and trainer of off-the-track thoroughbreds. For the...

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