Viburnum Notches First Stakes in Via Borghese

December 17, 2022

Photo by Lauren King

1 ½-Mile Stakes on Tapeta First Start for 4YO Filly Since Sept. 13

David Joseph/Gulfstream Park

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Dede McGehee’s 4-year-old homebred Viburnum, unraced since having her win streak snapped at two in mid-September, became a stakes winner for the first time in her return with a 2 ¼-length triumph in Saturday’s $100,000 Via Borghese at Gulfstream Park. 

The seventh running of the Via Borghese for fillies and mares 3 and up served as a co-headliner with the $100,000 H. Allen Jerkens for 3-year-olds and up. Both races were rained off the grass to the all-weather Tapeta course.

Under an ideal ride from Irad Ortiz Jr., Viburnum ($9.60) covered 1 ½ miles in 2:27.64. The Via Borghese was carded for 1 3/8 miles on the turf.

“I was concerned about the Tapta [but] I liked the longer distance. She can go all day, so the mile and a half was a little bit better for us,” winning trainer Kelsey Danner said. “I didn’t have to give him any instructions. He knows what he’s doing.”

Ortiz settled Viburnum in fifth as Beside Herself, the even-money favorite trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, led the field of eight through a quarter-mile in 23.93 seconds and a half in 48.35. Viburnum was still unhurried trailing all but two horses after six furlongs went in 1:13.46.

“I had a beautiful trip, a perfect trip,” Ortiz said. “I tried to follow the right horses and as soon as I hit the clear, she started to pick it up turning for home.”

Starship Mallomar, who had stalked Beside Herself from the gate, moved up to make a bid leaving the backstretch and forged a short lead as Ortiz started rolling on Viburnum in the clear three wide. Viburnum ranged up to the leaders on the turn, straightened for home in front and sprinted clear through the stretch.

“I thought she was doing it easy,” Danner said. “She’s got a nice long stride and she tends to lope along, anyway. It looked like Luis on the lead was kind of struggling a little bit around the turn and I kind of thought it was our race to lose at that point.”

Lisheen closed late to get second, followed by Flying Fortress, Beside Herself, Starship Mallomar, Good American, Champagne Ivy and Treasure of War.

“It’s hard to win on the lead on the Tapeta, and I was afraid when they took it off,” Pletcher said of Grade 3-placed Beside Herself. “We thought about it a little bit and decided to go ahead and run, and now we know she doesn’t really care for it.”

Viburnum, a bay daughter of Grade 1-winning millionaire Include, put together back-to-back wins in the summer at Delaware Park and Kentucky Downs, the latter going 1 5/16 Sept. 1. Off those efforts Danner brought her back in the AGS Ladies Marathon (G3) Sept. 13 at Kentucky Downs, where she wound up fifth.

“I wheeled her back too soon probably,” Danner said. “She loves Kentucky Downs. It kind of gave us a solid 12 days between the race, so I decided to try. She ran like a horse that was a little bit flat. When we tried to run in a couple other spots they came off the turf. She doesn’t handle the dirt, so we decided to keep her in training for this.”

Danner indicated Viburnum will get the rest of the winter off before being pointed for a spring campaign.

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