Loyalty Returns To Winning Ways in G2 Bessarabian

November 11, 2023

Loyalty victorious in the Bessarabian (Michael Burns)

Millie Girl Makes It a G3 Double With Maple Leaf Victory

By Chris Lomon – Woodbine Communications

TORONTO— Loyalty, under Kazushi Kimura, got back to her winning ways in Saturday’s $175,000 Bessarabian Stakes (G2) at Woodbine.

It was a spirited start to the seven-furlong main track race for fillies & mares, 3-year-olds and upward, with 103-1 Owen’s Tour Guide emerging on top, followed by the quartet of Miss Dracarys, Collecting Flatter, Ready To Venture (GB) and Love to Shop. Owen’s Tour Guide owned a half-length lead over Miss Dracarys through an opening panel timed in :23.11, while Loyalty sat seventh of 13 (Baby No Worries was scratched).

Owen’s Tour Guide still led the pack through a half-mile in :45.67 but was confronted by a host of rivals into the turn for home. Loyalty, trained by Josie Carroll, had loomed into contention, gathering up steam between foes and bursting through with authority to take aim at the leaders.

A head back of Our Flash Drive (last year’s winner) at the stretch call, the 4-year-old daughter of Hard Spun-Slew’s Quality went on to record a 1 ½-length triumph in a time of 1:22.27. Love to Shop was second, a neck clear of late-running Dolce Sopresa, also conditioned by Carroll. Our Flash Drive was fourth.

“Last time, there were only a few horses in the front, and she was aggressive from the beginning,” said Kimura. “But today, there were so many frontrunners that fortunately we could set up behind and she was so comfortable from behind and she finished up strong.”

It was the first victory for Loyalty since July 23 when she earned her first graded crown in the Hendrie (G3). She was fourth in the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (G2) on September 18 and third in the Ontario Fashion (G3) on October 14.  The dark bay also won last year’s Lady Erie Stakes at Presque Isle and the 2022 edition of the Alywow Stakes at Woodbine.

“I thought she was extremely tenacious today,” praised Carroll. “She had every reason not to dig in, she was kind of shuffling around there a little bit and then she pinned her ears and away she went. It’s pretty exciting when you get to handle a horse like that.”  

Owned by Gainesway Stable and LNJ Foxwoods, Loyalty was bred in Florida by Best A Luck Farm LLC and Godolphin LLC. She was a $270,000 purchase at the 2020 Keeneland Association September Yearling Sale. 

She is now 7-0-2 from 11 starts.

Loyalty, the slight 3-1 choice, paid $8.10 for the win. 

Millie Girl a comfortable winner of the Maple Leaf (Michael Burns)

In other Saturday stakes action, Millie Girl, under Rafael Hernandez, made it two straight Grade 3 triumphs after taking the $150,000 Maple Leaf Stakes.

Trained by Catherine Day Phillips, who co-owns (through her Kingfield Racing Stable, Ltd.) with Braconcrest Inc. and Apricot Valley Thoroughbreds, the 5-year-old daughter of Hard Spun-Mendocino Beano entered the Maple Leaf off a hard-fought head score in the Ontario Matron (G3) on October 14. 

The horse who won her first two starts, both on turf, last summer at Woodbine, was just as impressive this time. 

Sent off as the 6-5 choice in the1 ¼-mile Tapeta test for fillies & mares, 3-year-olds and upward, Millie Girl was near the back of the 12-horse field (Batyah was scratched) early. It was 64-1 Inventing who grabbed the lead, followed by Ever Smart and Il Malocchio, last year’s Maple Leaf winner, and clicked off an opening quarter in :23.69. 

Inventing widened her advantage over her closest pursuers to TK lengths through a half in :47.59, while Rafael Hernandez, aboard Millie Girl, was content to watch the proceedings from in tenth.

Still on top but holding a precarious lead swinging off the turn for home, Inventing was confronted by a host of closers, including Millie Girl, Solo Album, and Indy Champagne. It was Millie Girl who was travelling best of all, going from a charging fourth at the stretch call to a comfortable two-length winner. Solo Album was second, a length in front of Angelou. Indy Champagne was fourth. 

The final time was 2:03.53. 

“I tried to be as close as I could to the rail to save ground,” said Hernandez. “It was a big field, so I just tried to keep it clear, same situation with so many horses. I had her where I wanted. I didn’t want to be too far back. I want to be involved a little bit in the race. I know she always gives me everything. She showed up today like last time and gave her whole heart.” 

“She’s such a special filly, she’s a little quirky as you could see,” added Day Phillips. “She behaved better today in the winner’s circle but then had enough. When she’s had enough, she’s had enough. She’s very strong-willed.”

Bred by Sean Fitzhenry, the dark bay mare, who was contesting her fifth consecutive graded affair, has never finished lower than third in her 10-race career, posting a 5-2-3 mark. 

“Our plan is to race her next season and we’re looking forward to it,” noted Day Phillips, of the $67,000 (U.S.) Keeneland Association November Breeding Stock Sale purchase in 2021.   

Millie Girl paid $4.50 for the win. 

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