LAUREL, Md. – Michael Dubb and Gandharvi Racing Stable’s Grade 2-placed Battle Bling pounced on even-money favorite Coach down the backstretch and never looked back to earn her second career stakes victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Twixt Saturday at Laurel Park.
The 40th running of the Twixt for fillies and mares 3 and up going about 1 1/16 miles was among five stakes worth $575,000 in purses on opening weekend of the calendar year-ending fall meet co-headlined by the $150,000 Laurel Futurity for 2-year-olds and $150,000 Selima for 2-year-old fillies.
Also on the program were the $100,000 Japan Turf Cup, rained off the grass and shortened from 1 ½ to 1 ¼ miles, and $75,000 Challedon for 3-year-olds and up that had not won an open sweepstakes sprinting seven furlongs.
It was the second straight win for Battle Bling ($5.60) after running second behind multiple stakes winner Miss Leslie in the 1 ¼-mile Delaware Handicap (G2) July 9. The 4-year-old daughter of Vancouver opened her campaign with a neck triumph in the 1 1/8-mile Ladies Jan. 16 at Aqueduct.
Coach, a two-time stakes winner than ran ninth in the 2021 Kentucky Oaks (G1) for trainer Brad Cox, was making her first start since finishing fourth in the Feb. 12 Bayakoa (G2) at Oaklawn Park. She broke sharply and established an early lead pressed by Battle Bling, who surprised the betting favorite with a bold move to take over the top spot after a 24.25-second quarter mile. Cruz kept Battle Bling focused and comfortable from there, going a half in 48.77 and six furlongs in 1:13.75 to put away Jilted Bride on the turn and hold off a late run from Coach to win by 1 ¼ lengths.
“The assistant trainer told me to break good, get closer and that’s what I did. But the pace was slow and I just took advantage of it,” Cruz said. “She liked [the wet track]. She was comfortable the whole way. I just sat relaxed and when they came to me, she just kicked on.”
Coach rallied for second, 2 ¾ lengths ahead of July 8 Iowa Distaff winner Jilted Bride, followed by Breviary and Click to Confirm. Hybrid Eclipse, The Grass Is Blue and Malibu Beauty were scratched.
Trained by New York-based Rob Atras, Battle Bling now has five wins, eight seconds and a third from 20 lifetime starts and moved over the $500,000 mark in purse earnings.
Twixt was a Maryland-bred champion every year she raced, from 1972-75, retiring as Maryland’s all-time money-winning mare. Her 18 stakes wins were also a Maryland-bred record on the flat. Bred and owned by Mr. and Mrs. John Merryman and trained by their daughter, Katy Voss, Twixt won the Barbara Fritchie (G3) and was named Maryland’s Horse of the Year in 1973 and 1974.
David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
Photo by Maryland Jockey Club