LEXINGTON, Ky. – In a field of nine juveniles, Irish-bred filly Aunt Pearl was much the victor in the $150,000 Grade 2 JP Morgan Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland on Wednesday.
The plucky filly wired the one mile race on the turf under a brilliant hand ride by Florent Geroux. Taking the lead at the break to set a quick pace along the inside, she held a clear margin around the stretch turn before being let out passing the quarter pole.
Aunt Pearl drew off under pressure staying well clear of a challenge by Mark Casse-trained Spanish Loveaffair coming to the wire to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Finishing third was Ingrassia with Arm Candy in fourth.
“I was going faster than I thought. Looking at the fractions, I was ‘Wow.’ I thought they would be much slower than that. She has short legs, but they move very fast for sure. I’m very impressed with her,” Geroux stated.
“We always loved her from the beginning. We thought she was a very nice filly. I had to make her work a little bit today down the stretch. In her first race (at Churchill Downs on Sept. 1), she didn’t get anything out of it. She was pretty much on cruise control the whole time (while she won by 5 lengths). If we want to be a factor in the Breeders’ Cup, she needed to do a little something today. She was very impressive, and I’m very pleased with her.”
Batyah, Navratilova, Taylor’s Tourist, Momentous Miss, Beautiful Star, Gambling Cat and Lazy Summer Day complete the order of finish.
Aunt Pearl covered the 1 1/16 miles on a firm turf course in 1:40.86 to shatter the stakes record of 1:42.21 established by Solvig in 1999. She is the second JPMorgan Chase Jessamine winner for Geroux, who won in 2016 aboard La Coronel. Fractions were :22.28, :46.65, 1:11.32 and 1:34.74.
Trained by Brad Cox, Aunt Pearl is two for two having won her debut by five lengths at Churchill Downs on Sept. 1 in a Maiden Special Weight.
“(After her career debut), we were hoping (she was this good). She showed us a lot of talent in the mornings. I told someone after the race that that’s the first time we ever cut her loose,” Cox said. “She’s very gifted. She’s got a lot of natural speed – :46 and change, carrying speed two turns like that in the second start of her career – she’s obviously very special. It was a big effort.
“She’s been here for like three days. She settled in extremely well. We schooled her a couple of times. We try to keep her busy. She’s a filly with a lot of energy. Our team’s done a very, very good job of managing her over the time we’ve had her. I’m very proud of her, and congratulations to the connections,” he concluded.
Bred by Ecurie Des Charmes & Ballylinch Stud, the Irish filly is owned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables LLC, Peter Deutsch, Michael E. Kisber, and The Elkstone Group, LLC (Stuart Grant).
Michael Hernon, co-owner of runner-up Spanish Loveaffair commented: “The winner ran huge and set a stakes record so all credit to her. Our filly ran big; this was a step up in class. Now she has graded black type.
“We expected (Spanish Loveaffair) to run very well today. We knew the winner would be tough. We just wanted (Spanish Loveaffair) to hit the board. She did that and was well clear of the third filly. We are optimistic that we have a very good filly going forward.”
The daughter of Lope de Vega (IRE) out of the Hurricane Run (IRE) mare Matauri Pearl (IRE) the bay filly was purchased at the Tattersalls October 2019 Yearling Sale for $358,766. She has career earnings of $132,784.
Click here for a replay of the race and the post-race interview with winning connections.
Photo: Aunt Pearl. Credit: Keeneland/Coady