Promiseher America on her way to a brave victory in the Gazelle (Dom Napolitano)
Distaff Runner-up Funny How Likely for G3 Vagrancy
NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Hoffman Thoroughbreds and Tom McCrocklin’s Promiseher America earned a career-best 82 Beyer Speed Figure when capturing Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Gazelle for sophomore fillies going nine furlongs at Aqueduct Racetrack.
In capturing the final local prep on the Kentucky Oaks trail, Promiseher America earned the maximum allotment of 100 points towards the prestigious Grade 1 test at Churchill Downs while also providing trainer Ray Handal with his first graded stakes conquest.
“I was watching the replay this morning and watching the coverage,” Handal said. “It’s so cool. It’s been a long time coming, so I’m happy we finally got it done. And what a way to do it, with a horse now going to one of the biggest races in the country on one of the biggest weekends of the year.”
Handal reported that Promiseher America was nominated to the Oaks following her Gazelle triumph.
“We did that yesterday,” Handal said. “$1,500 to nominate so we went ahead and did that.”
Promiseher America, by 2015 Triple Crown winner and Hall of Famer American Pharoah, entered the Gazelle after making the third time the charm in a local February 19 maiden test going a one-turn mile. She stalked the pace from fourth down the backstretch before taking command at the stretch call and darting away to a 6 1/2-length score.
Handal spoke of how her maiden win encouraged him to take a chance in the Gazelle.
“I’ve been one to take shots. You only get these restricted races once and if there was a time to swing, this was it,” Handal said. “Every now and then you get lucky, and it worked out here. She’s a good young horse, she continues to improve, and I see her taking another step forward. I think she’ll get better and who knows, maybe she shocks the world in four weeks.”
Promiseher America will remain at Belmont Park to train for the Kentucky Oaks, according to Handal.
“I’d rather just keep her in her routine here and worry about if she likes the track and adjust things when she gets there. I like keeping them all under one roof as long as possible,” Handal said.
Bred in Kentucky by Robert and Lawana Low, Promiseher America is out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Promisedyouheaven, whose dam Hurricane Bernie is a half-sister to dual Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Mizdirection [2012-13]. She was bought for $75,000 at the 2022 OBS April Sale.
On Friday, Handal saddled Adelphi Racing Club and Cutair Racing’s Funny How to a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Distaff Handicap. The seven-furlong event ended the New York-bred Overanalyze filly’s five-race win streak.
Handal said he would likely keep Funny How against graded company for her next start in the Grade 3, $175,000 Vagrancy on May 14 at Belmont Park going 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track with the Grade 2, $200,000 Ruffian on May 6 at Belmont going a one-turn mile as a viable alternative.
“I think we keep going this route until she says otherwise,” Handal said. “More than likely we’ll go to the Vagrancy. I guess the Ruffian isn’t off the table, but I’m leaning toward the Vagrancy at 6 1/2. It gives her more time. The Ruffian is a little quicker back and plus it’s usually a tough race.”
Bred by Hibiscus Stables, Funny How is a half-sister to multiple New York-bred stakes winner Funny Guy.
Handal has been in notable winning form recently, securing victories in four of his last eight starts. His other two fresh off a triumph include Merrylegs Farm’s New York homebred Listentoyourheart, who secured a career-best 100 Beyer in a Friday state-bred allowance going seven furlongs.
The 6-year-old Afleet Alex gelding earned his fourth career victory and first under Handal’s care. Previously trained by Christophe Clement, Listentoyourheart won Finger Lakes’ Aspirant during his juvenile season. Handal said he would likely try open company with Listentoyourheart.
“I thought he’d run well, but I didn’t expect that. I’m lucky we have all his conditions still,” Handal said. “We’ll see how he fares against open company.”
Also on Friday, Handal sent out New York-bred Gem Mint Ten to a maiden win at third asking going six furlongs on the outer turf. The sophomore Laoban colt could stretch out for his next start according to Handal, who sung praises on behalf of owners Adelphi Racing Club and Cutair Racing.
“Good for the Adelphi group. I think he wants a little more ground. We’ll keep swinging away with him. He looks like one with a future,” Handal said. “The barn is rolling right now. My team and I work hard so it’s nice to see it come around for us. It’s been a grind. It doesn’t ever get easier but it’s nice to see the horses running the way they are.”