LAUREL, Md. – Godolphin LLC’s Pennybaker, a 4-year-old filly making her first start in the U.S. after four consecutive victories in France over all-weather surfaces, made it look easy over the main track Saturday, drawing away from 11 others at the top of the stretch and then wrapped up the final 100 yards to an easy victory in the $100,000 Heavenly Cause at Laurel Park.
The Heavenly Cause was one of four stakes worth $450,000 in purses on a 10-race program co-headlined by the $125,000 Federico Tesio and $125,000 Weber City Miss. The Tesio for 3-year-olds is a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated horses to the 147th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 21, while the Weber City affords the winner an automatic berth to the 98th Black-Eyed Susan (G2) May 20.
Trained by Michael Stidham and ridden by Jevian Toledo, Pennybaker broke well from the 11 post and raced four wide down the backstretch off a :23.54 and :46.85 pace set by Shalimar Gardens. After Toledo moved three-wide around the turn, Pennybaker simply pulled Toledo to the front, and she drove away effortlessly down the stretch while Toledo wrapped up on her the final 100 yards to win by 6 ¾ ahead of Fille d’Esprit. Pennybaker covered the mile in 1:37.39.
“Going down the backside I could see her moving up without him even moving a muscle, and I thought to myself, ‘That must be a pretty good feeling for that rider right now.’ You could tell he was loaded down the backside,” Stidham said. “It was huge to come over here and in her first start switching to the dirt, her running like that was fantastic. That’s what we were hoping for. That’s the way she trained down at the Fair Grounds. She gave us all those indications but you don’t know until you try it in the afternoon.
“We really hadn’t gotten past this race because we wanted to see how she handled it and what kind of performance she put in, but certainly we’ll be looking at a lot of spots with her. She’s very talented.”
Maryland Jockey Club Press Release
Photo: Pennybaker (MJC)