Falconet soars to the wire with mane flying and ears up. (Chelsea Durand)
By Mary Eddy
OZONE PARK, N.Y – WinStar Farm and CHC Inc.’s Falconet notched her first stakes victory, pouncing from off-the-pace in Sunday’s 152nd running of the nine-furlong Ladies for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up, the first stake of the 2023 winter meet at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher and ridden by Jose Lezcano, Falconet improved from a last-out fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Comely on November 25 at the Big A where she stumbled at the start and ran on to be defeated just 2 1/2 lengths by Sixtythreecaliber.
Falconet fared much better in the Ladies, breaking well from the outermost post 5 as Exotic West and the Kendrick Carmouche-piloted Battle Bling, who won this event last year, vied for command to her inside. The former put her head in front as the field reached the first turn and marked an opening quarter-mile in 23.47 seconds over the muddy and sealed main track with Falconet stalking in third position.
Lezcano asked Falconet for more down the backstretch, coming to even terms with Battle Bling to her inside after a half-mile in 47.84, well in hand and full of run as Exotic West continued to hold steady in front. Battle Bling came under light urging from Carmouche in the turn as Sweet Willemina and Tonal Vision launched wide bids from the back of the pack, but Falconet came away with the clear advantage as the field reached the top of the stretch through three-quarters in 1:13.52.
Battle Bling, who was swung to the four-path by Carmouche, battled on valiantly down the lane to overtake second position from Tonal Vision and chipped away at her foe’s margin, but could not catch a runaway Falconet, who was wrapped up just before the wire to post the two-length score in a final time of 1:52.15.
Battle Bling completed the exacta by three lengths over Sweet Willemina, who ran on well to land show honors 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Tonal Vision. Exotic West faded in the stretch and completed the order of finish in fifth.
Byron Hughes, Pletcher’s Belmont Park-based assistant, said he was pleased with the ride from Lezcano.
“I thought he did a good job keeping her in the clear and getting her in a good rhythm,” said Hughes. “She responded to him and was able to kick there coming off the turn and held on.”
Lezcano, who rode Falconet for the first time, said the filly showed her class today.
“She broke good for me, and she was there the whole way,” Lezcano said. “When I asked her, she went on and won the race. She did everything right today.”
Falconet, a 4-year-old filly by Uncle Mo and out of Grade 1-winner Birdatthewire, entered with two runner-up efforts in stakes company as a sophomore, posting good efforts in the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows and Seneca Overnight at Churchill Downs. Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, she banked $82,500 in victory and improved her record to 7-3-3-0. She returned $4.20 for a $2 win ticket.
The Rob Atras-trained Battle Bling took a three-race win streak into the Grade 3 Go for Wand on December 3 at the Big A where she was bumped at the break and finished eighth. Atras said it was good to see Battle Bling deliver an admirable performance in her first start back despite a tough trip.
“Kendrick said she doesn’t really love that track, but she was more herself today,” Atras said. “Kendrick said she warmed up real good and she kept running. I think the traffic didn’t help, but I was happy just to get her back.”
Carmouche, who rode the daughter of Vancouver to a graded score two starts back in the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm Handicap, shared Atras’ sentiments.
“I was saving ground and sitting in there the whole race,” said Carmouche. “If I could have got out a little earlier, I probably could have made a race of it but Lezcano had me blocked in the whole way.
“My filly ran a good race,” Carmouche added. “She really don’t like the sloppy track, but we got her back to where she was and ran really well. We’re really pleased with that.”
Live racing resumes Thursday at the Big A with an eight-race card. First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.