NEW KENT, VA.— Fille d’Esprit had a couple of stakes wins on her resume, but her victory in the $150,000 Seeking the Pearl Stakes at Colonial Downs on Aug. 16 had special meaning for one of her owners who traveled from Las Vegas for an afternoon of racing that featured the fourth leg of the 2022 Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships Series (MATCH).
The 6-year-old Maryland-bred mare by Great Notion was claimed by Carl Ianotti’s CJI Phoenix Group and No Guts No Glory Farm for $10,000 in August 2020 and since then has won eight races, three of them stakes, despite a setback that forced her to miss almost eight months of racing from December of 2020 to August 2021.
Ianotti turned 65 the day before the Seeking the Pearl and also recently had his last radiation treatment. He was overwhelmed after Fille d’Esprit, with regular rider Xavier Perez aboard, rallied along the rail from sixth on the far turn to win the seven-furlong stakes that attracted a strong field including graded-stakes winner Caribbean Caper, who entered the race undefeated in five starts.
“I’m a cancer survivor,” Ianotti said. “My wife has been very supportive as have John and Gina Robb (of No Guts No Glory Farm), and the horses have been the best therapy for me. As for this horse, what can I say? She’s a blessing from God.”
Perez, who rides most of the horses trained by John Robb, sent Fille d’Esprit early from post position one and then elected to sit behind a wall of horses battling for the lead through the fast fractions. Fille d’Esprit had to check slightly as a horse was backing out of contention but she regrouped, took the inside route and eventually pulled clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Kalypso, who closed from sixth early in the race.
“It all worked out in our favor,” Perez said.
Fille d’Esprit, with 10 wins in 19 starts, now has 22 points after three MATCH Series starts and is eligible for bonus money. She is tied for first with Kaylasaurus in the Filly and Mare Sprint—Dirt division with one division leg remaining for 2022.
Kaylasaurus shipped to Colonial Downs the day before the Seeking the Pearl in anticipation of her fourth series start but was scratched the morning of the race by veterinarians. David Bushey of Bush Racing Stable, one of four partners in the mare, said she would be evaluated and a decision made thereafter.
“She was doing great with two really nice works going into (the race),” he said. “While we are disappointed she couldn’t compete, the horse always comes first for us.”
Pennsylvania-bred Kaylasaurus was claimed for $25,000 last November and since then her record in stakes is two wins, two seconds and a third in six outings.
Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Press Release
Main photo: Fille d’Esprit captures the Seeking the Pearl Stakes at Colonial Downs (Coady Photography)