War Like Goddess Imperial Repeat in G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic

October 7, 2023

War Like Goddess gives Mott, Alvarado, and owner Krikorian second stakes win on the day (Joe Labozzetta)

By Mary Eddy – NYRA Press Office

OZONE PARK, N.Y.— George Krikorian’s War Like Goddess reeled in runaway pacesetter So High to defeat males for a second straight year in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, a 1 1/2-mile outer turf test for 3-year-olds and up, at Belmont at the Big A. 

War Like Goddess’ win began a memorable hour for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and Krikorian, who teamed up one race later to win the Grade 1 Frizette with Just F Y I, giving her connections a Grade 1 double and securing a “Win and You’re In” berth into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. 

War Like Goddess earned the third Grade 1 victory of her career, adding to her 2 3/4-length triumph in this event last year, as well as the Grade 1 Flower Bowl in 2021. Last year, War Like Goddess’ Hirsch score propelled her to another try against males in the 12-furlong Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland where she finished third to returning rival Rebel’s Romance. 

Mott said the daughter of English Channel could square off against males again at this year’s Breeders’ Cup on November 4 at Santa Anita Park. 

“If she runs, she’ll run against the boys. I won’t run her a mile and a quarter,” Mott said of the Filly and Mare Turf’s distance. “She’s a mile and a half filly.”

While the Joe Hirsch was pushed back one week from its original date due to inclement weather, Mott said the race’s timing should still set up War Like Goddess well for the Breeders’ Cup. 

“It rushes us a little bit,” said Mott. “It puts us a little closer, but we still have four weeks.”

Piloted to victory by Junior Alvarado, who rode the 6-year-old mare for the first time, War Like Goddess emerged from post 2 and settled in mid-pack while the often-prominent Astronaut broke a step slow from the outermost post 8 and So High, a 90-1 longshot piloted by Romero Maragh, bounded up to the front to mark splits of 24.76 seconds and 49.56 seconds over the yielding footing. 

War Like Goddess, who was noticeably unsettled in the early stages of her last outing when second in the Grade 2 Glens Falls at Saratoga Race Course, found herself in a comfortable fourth-place stalking position past the wire for the first time as So High quickly drew off to a runaway lead and put 19 lengths between him and Pioneering Spirit. Post-time favorite Rebel’s Romance and Grand Sonata were on even terms for third position as War Like Goddess tracked to the inside of Stone Age through the second turn and three-quarters in 1:15.62. 

So High maintained his monstrous advantage down the backstretch and to the final turn as Rebel’s Romance was given his cue by jockey William Buick and took up second position to the outside of a toiling Pioneering Spirit. War Like Goddess cut the corner in the turn and preserved rail-skimming position for as long as possible before angling outside of Rebel’s Romance and easily sweeping past that rival to take dead aim at a valiant So High, who clocked one-mile in 1:40.94 and 1 1/4 miles in 2:06.42. 

War Like Goddess found more with every stride and overtook So High nearing the sixteenth pole to draw clear and notch the 4 1/2-length victory in a final time of 2:32.86. Soldier Rising, who was last in the early stages, put in a strong sustained run from the final turn to the wire to nab place honors from So High, who gamely fended off Rebel’s Romance by a neck for show. Stone Age, Grand Sonata, Pioneering Spirit and Astronaut completed the order of finish. 

Alvarado said getting War Like Goddess to settle early was key. 

“I wasn’t worried about the horse in front. I had to try and make sure my filly relaxed,” said Alvarado. “On occasion, she can get very keen, and I think that’s the time when she gets beat because she is fighting herself. So, I just tried to relax, and she did relax for me the whole way around. I was sitting chill where I wanted to be, and by the time I started to pick it up I had a ton of horse. Even when I turned for home and saw that horse was 10-to-12 lengths in front of me, I knew I was going to catch him when I asked my filly, and she gives me that turn of foot that she has.”

Alvarado all smiles after the Joe Hirsch (Joe Labozzetta)

Mott, who won his sixth Joe Hirsch, said So High’s massive lead did not cause him any concern. 

“She wasn’t that far back from the second, third and fourth horse,” said Mott. “She wasn’t really that far back at all. Ordinarily, 90 percent of the time when a horse opens up that much, they usually come back. Obviously, you’ll have times when they don’t, but she was close enough to the other horses.”

Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, War Like Goddess now boasts a lifetime record of 17-11-2-2, which includes eight graded stakes victories. She banked $275,000 for her Hirsch victory, boosting her lifetime purse earnings to $2,495,184 and returning $9.60 for a $2 win ticket. 

Dylan Davis, aboard the now six-time Grade 1-placed Soldier Rising for trainer Christophe Clement, said he would have preferred to have better position earlier in the race. 

“I was trying to get some good position out of there, but I ended up not getting what I liked,” Davis said. “The frontrunner really distanced himself by maybe 20 lengths. I had to bide my time and wait for the other horses to make their run instead of putting him in a chasing spot. He finished great, nice and strong. The filly was impressive as well. I had no problems with it.”

The Naipaul Chatterpaul-trained/owned So High contested his fifth Grade 1 event and garnered black type for the first time on the heels of a sixth-place effort in a September 2 allowance at Saratoga. Maragh praised the son of Nathaniel’s determination and heart. 

“He’s a cool horse. He doesn’t really have too much of a big kick so I didn’t want to rate him too much,” Maragh said. “I just wanted him to go out there and kind of have fun, put his ears up and relax as much as he can. Every time the trainer Chatterpaul brings him to the races he is always fit, so that was what I relied on heavily. It was a great trip for me. He ran his heart out, like he always does.”

As for Godolphin’s beaten favorite Rebel’s Romance, Buick said the Charlie Appleby-trained son of Dubawi simply did not handle the soft footing. 

“The ground was too soft. He had a beautiful run through. The leader stole the march, and the other two [War Like Goddess and Solider Rising] picked him off and I couldn’t,” said Buick. “I was struggling out there.”

Live racing resumes Sunday at Belmont at the Big A with a nine-race card, featuring the Grade 2, $250,000 Beldame in Race 3, the Grade 3, $150,000 Futurity, a “Win and You’re In” for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, in Race 5, the Grade 3, $150,000 Noble Damsel in Race 7 and the Grade 3, $150,000 Matron in Race 8. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern. 

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