SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Westerberg, Mrs. John Magnier, Jonathan Poulin, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor’s Kimari outkicked a determined Frank’s Rockette to capture Wednesday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss Handicap, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Wesley Ward and piloted by Joel Rosario, the 5-year-old Munnings mare earned Grade 1 status last April with a three-quarter length score in the seven-furlong Madison at Keeneland. She again established her class on Wednesday with a half-length triumph over a stubborn Frank’s Rockette with Grade 1-winner Bella Sofia, who carried a field-high 125 pounds, settling for third.
“I was pretty confident going into today,” Ward said. “It just worked out great, and it’s always great to stand in the winner’s circle for a graded race at Saratoga. There’s nothing like it.”
Ohio-bred shipper Amadevil broke alertly and assumed command through a quarter-mile in 22.72 seconds over the fast main track in front of Bella Sofia with Kimari in third and Frank’s Rockette, who bobbled at the break, sitting last-of-4 under Flavien Prat.
Frank’s Rockette made an inside rush down the backstretch and took command through a half-mile in 45.87 with the Luis Saez-piloted Bella Sofia under a ride and Kimari waiting for her cue. Kimari advanced with purpose down the center of the track as Frank’s Rockette dug in gamely but could not hold off the winner, who prevailed in a final time of 1:10.78. Frank’s Rockette completed the exacta by 5 3/4-lengths over Bella Sofia. Amadevil, who was eased to the finish, was vanned off and reported to have bled.
Ward said Kimari, assigned 123 pounds, was well-placed in the compact field of four.
“I thought the race set up for today, especially drawing the outside – it gave Joel a nice easy run down the backside with no opposition as far as maneuvering to try to get there,” Ward said. “He was already there when they opened the gates. That was a key. It all worked out. Some days it does, and some days it doesn’t.”
It was the fifth graded-stakes win of the meet for Rosario, adding to scores in the Grade 1 Diana [In Italian], Grade 2 Shuvee [Clairiere], Grade 3 Forbidden Apple [City Man] and Grade 3 Quick Call [Big Invasion].
“I’m glad we got the win today,” Rosario said. “It looked like there was going to be so much speed and she [Kimari] can be up closer, but we kind of were in a good spot and she did great and responded to everything I asked her to do. I thought for a second the leader might get away, but she kept fighting and got the job done.”
Frank Fletcher Racing Operations’ Frank’s Rockette has completed the exacta in all three starts this season. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Frank’s Rockette entered from a game runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Vagrancy in May at Belmont when defeated a nose by Bella Sofia, who won the Grade 1 Longines Test here last summer.
Prat said the stumbled start required a change in tactics.
“It changed the game plan a little bit, but it worked out well because there was some pace up front,” Prat said. “I was happy where I was after that and made a good move around the turn and just got outrun. She’s been really consistent. She’ll get there one day.”
Saez said Bella Sofia, who was worked up before the race, didn’t fire her usual strong effort.
“She calmed down after we went to the pony, and then she broke well,” Saez said. “She was in a great spot, but at the three-eighths she didn’t give me a big kick. She was a little flat at the top of the stretch.”
Kimari launched her current campaign in March with an optional-claiming win at Gulfstream and followed with a third in her title defense in the Grade 1 Madison in April. She entered the Honorable Miss from a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Derby City Distaff on May 7 at Churchill Downs.
Ward said he may have brought Kimari back too quickly last out.
“She came back a little closer than I would have liked with a big filly like this, and she probably went on a track she didn’t really care for at Churchill,” Ward said. “I knew that going in, but kind of talked myself into it.”
Ward said he would like to get Kimari to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in November at Keeneland, but did not immediately commit to the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina Handicap on August 28 at the Spa, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the prestigious race.
“Our ultimate goal would be the Breeders’ Cup because it’s my home track and her home track,” Ward said. “So we’ll work backwards from there and get together with Coolmore and give them a few options and go from there.”
Bred in Kentucky by China Horse Club International, Kimari is out of the graded-stakes winning Cozzene mare Cozze Up Lady. She banked $110,000 in victory, while improving her record to 15-8-2-2, returning $8.10 for a $2 win ticket.
Live racing resumes Thursday at Saratoga with a 10-race card highlighted by the $200,000 Birdstone in Race 5. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
Saratoga Live will present daily coverage and analysis of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Saratoga Race Course, and the best way to bet every race of the summer meet. Available to horse players nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
By Keith McCalmont
Photo: Frank’s Rockette #1 inside tries to catch Kimari #4 outside but just misses by 1/2 a length in the G2 Honorable Miss. (NYRA/Coglianese)