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Pletcher, Velazquez team up for Pimlico stakes double

R Holiday Mood (yellow cap) surged past her rivals to take the Miss Preakness (Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos)

Prior to the Black-Eyed Susan S. (G2) at Pimlico on Friday, E. Paul Robsham Stables' homebred R HOLIDAY MOOD (Trippi) was a stalking second in the $52,750 Miss Preakness S. and just got up by a neck on the wire to score under jockey John Velazquez. The six-furlong event was one of four undercard stakes at Pimlico, and gave trainer Todd Pletcher and Velazquez the first of two black-type wins on the program.

R Holiday Mood settled just behind 4-5 favorite Final Mesa (Sky Mesa) through splits of :23, :46 and :58 4/5 and inherited the lead when the leader faded in the stretch. The sophomore miss maintained her momentum in the lane, and had just enough left in reserve to hold the late rally of Strike the Moon (Malibu Moon) while stopping the clock on the fast main track in 1:12.

"The only time we sprinted her was on a sloppy track that I don't think she appreciated," trainer Todd Pletcher commented. "I felt good when she broke good and put herself in good position. She gutted it out."

"She really surprised me. I didn't think she was going to be that fast," Velazquez said. "I was going to break a little bit slow and let her come back. What happened is that she broke with the other horse (Final Mesa) and I took advantage of that. I had to stick with (Final Mesa) once (R Holiday Mood) broke like that."

Bold Affair (Two Punch) tracked in third throughout and filled that spot on the line, another three parts of a length back of Strike the Moon. Final Mesa was a half-length behind in fourth, while Grand Kisses (Grand Reward), Aba Dabbler (Star Dabbler), Sweet Susan (Wiseman's Ferry) and Spring Jump (Jump Start) completed the order of finish. Side by Side (Include) and Fast Tip (Najran) were withdrawn.

R Holiday Mood made her stakes debut in the Out Ruled S. at Aqueduct in mid-March, and was most recently seen finishing fourth in the Comely S. (G3) after setting the early pace in that one-mile contest. Reverting in distance here, the bay lass now boasts a 5-3-0-1, $103,800, career mark.

Pletcher also gave Velazquez a leg up on Michael B. Tabor's EXCITED (Giant's Causeway) in the $50,000 Hilltop S., which rounded out Pimlico's Friday program.

The sophomore filly saved ground in fourth before easing out on the far turn as Full Moon Blues (Petionville) recorded splits of :24 2/5, :49 and 1:15 3/5. Velazquez sent her around horses entering the stretch and Excited powered on through the lane to draw clear by 3 3/4 lengths of Pink Pallet (Include), who rallied from last to be a length clear of Blushandbashful (Even the Score) on the wire. The winner finished 1 1/16 miles on the yielding turf in 1:49 2/5.

"She's a nice filly," Pletcher said. "I trained her mother as well and it's rewarding when you get that second generation. We had a good trip. The main concern today if you were running on the turf was how they were going to handle the soft ground. Fortunately, she handled it real well."

"That was not an easy race," Velazquez added. "She would hit spots and lose momentum. She stumbled plenty throughout the race. I just wanted to be close enough to make one big move. She ran great down the lane."

Frontside (War Front) followed in fourth with Mount Holiday (Eddington), Ms. Silver Oak (Leroidesanimaux [Brz]), Anandi (Anabaa), Full Moon Blues, Green Wave Girl (Bowman's Band), Parade of Colors (Leading the Parade) and Art of the Hunt (Lion Hearted) completing the order under the line. Celestial Kitten (Kitten's Joy) and Subpoena (Afleet Alex) were withdrawn.

Excited entered the Hilltop owning just one win, with that coming in her maiden debut at Saratoga last August. Since then the bay lass has competed out of stakes competition only once, running second in an optional claiming test at Aqueduct in November. She followed her maiden win with a fourth in the Miss Grillo S. (G3) and a second in the Good Mood S., and opened her three-year-old season with a runner-up finish in the Sweetest Chant S. Excited put in a mild bid to be third in the Herecomesthebride S. (G3) at Gulfstream in March and came into this one off an eighth-place run in the Ashland S. (G1). Her line now reads 8-2-3-1, $130,700.

BEN'S CAT (Parker's Storm Cat) began the stakes action on the Black-Eyed Susan undercard by earning his fifth stakes victory in come-from-behind fashion in the $75,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint S.

With Jeremy Rose sporting the silks of owner The Jim Stable, the dark bay gelding settled into last as Southern Region (Stormy Atlantic) took command of the five-furlong dash through splits of :22 4/5 and :47. Southern Region appeared a clear winner in the stretch while four lengths clear of his nearest rival, but his challengers were just gearing up. Local Celebrity (Tactical Cat) and Super Chunky (Put It Back) swept on by the early pacesetter, but neither could withstand the furious rally put in by Ben's Cat as he drew away to finish two lengths in front of Local Celebrity.

"I thought he would win, but that was a special win," trainer King Leatherbury said. "He's done that a couple of times when he's fired in the stretch and rolled away. It's beautiful when you see that. It's very thrilling."

It was another two lengths back to Super Chunky, with Southern Region and Blue Sailor (Northern Afleet) rounding out the depleted field following the scratches of Sneaking Uponyou (Snuck In), Heros Reward (Partner's Hero), Immortal Eyes (Greatness), Gattopardo (Johannesburg), Havelock (Great Notion) and Yield Bogey (Langfuhr).

Ben's Cat completed the Jim McKay Turf Sprint in :59 3/5 on the green to move his record to 14-10-1-0, $316,230. The five-year-old captured the Maryland Million Turf Sprint H., Mister Diz S. and Find H. last year, and two back defended his title in the off-the-turf Mister Diz.

The veteran Suzzona captured her second stakes victory in The Very One (Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos)

Right after Royal Delta (Empire Maker) captured the Black-Eyed Susan, SUZZONA (The Name's Jimmy) pulled out a neck score in the $50,750 The Very One S. with Julian Pimentel in the irons.

The Ben Feliciano Jr. charge tracked in third as Threetimesawonder (Three Wonders) posted fractions of :22 3/5 and :47 1/5. The seven-year-old mare was fanned four wide in upper stretch after circling the turn, but still managed to grab the lead and begin drawing off. She had just enough left to withstand the late rally of Supreme (Empire Maker) while running five grassy furlongs in 1:00 2/5.

"She always runs good for us," Feliciano said. "She almost won this race last year. She gives her all in every race she runs."

"What a nice horse. She's honest, tries hard every time," Pimentel agreed. "She loves this distance on the turf. She was in a really good spot throughout and finished up great."

Supreme had 4 1/4 lengths to spare over 4-5 favorite Rose Catherine (Speightstown), who was followed under the wire by What She Said (Whywhywhy), Colony Club (Lion Hearted), Sea Wind (Northern Afleet), Don'tgetsuspicious (E Dubai) and Threetimesawonder. Bopolene (Bop) and Lady Rizzi (Rizzi) were both scratched.

Suzzona, who races for Sandy Valley Farms, made her stakes debut in this race last May, ironically just missing by a neck on that day, and earned her first stakes victory when taking the Lightning City S. at Tampa Bay Downs in December. Her mark now stands at 40-18-6-4 and the chestnut mare has banked $403,765 lifetime.


 


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