Hard Not to Like wins comeback in Marshua's River
Driving through the gap with good heart, Hard Not to Like now accosted Channel Lady. The battle was brief, for Hard Not to Like outkicked her rival and completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:41 3/5.
"She didn't break as sharp as I thought she would," Rocco said. "I thought she'd be laying second from the paper, but it worked out well. Halfway around the first turn I was able to get in behind Javier Castellano (aboard Channel Lady) and draft behind him. When I saw (Joel Rosario on Frontside) pull his stick through to his left hand turning for home, I said hopefully this is my hole, and my filly ran right through it."
"I didn't know what to expect," Matz said. "I didn't know if Joe was going to get through there. She has that will to win. We've had plenty of works in her, but you never know. You've got to give credit to the horse."
Leading Astray, the 2-1 favorite, found traffic trouble before rallying for third, another 2 1/2 lengths back. Chokurei reported home fourth, followed by Frontside, defending champion Heavenly Landing, Frolic's Revenge and Affair Dabbler. Filare l'Oro and Fantasy of Flight were scratched.
Hard Not to Like's resume now reads 8-4-1-0, $450,035. She won her first two career starts on the Woodbine turf -- a six-furlong maiden and a one-mile allowance -- before finishing fifth as the favorite in her stakes debut in the Grade 3 Natalma. Hard Not to Like made amends next time out in the Cup and Saucer and ended her 2011 season with a decent fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
"She's a delight to train -- she's really a nice horse to train," Matz said. "She's likes to train. She does everything the way you'd like. She trains…like a stakes winner.
"We'd like to keep her for the rest of the year. We'll see if we can find something down here. Maybe we can do so something towards the end of the meet."
The Ontario-bred Hard Not to Like is a three-quarter sister to Grade 3-placed Ruby Lips, who was just demoted from second to third in Saturday's Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct.
Hard Not to Like is the first foal from multiple stakes queen Like a Gem, a daughter of Tactical Cat. Like a Gem is herself a half-sister to stakes scorer Win and Reign; Grade 3-placed Cool Gator; and Ruby Lips, who like Hard Not to Like, is by Hard Spun.
This is also the family of Grade 1 victor Firery Ensign, Italian classic winner Davide Umbro and undefeated Grade 2 star Run Away and Hide.
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