Sunday’s $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic (G3) at Sam Houston was supposed to be I’m a Chatterbox’s winning kick-off to her five-year-old campaign.
Instead, Red Oak Stable’s homebred Unbridled Mo outran the multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire to score a 2 3/4-length victory under jockey Jose Ortiz.
Danzatrice led the way once the gates opened, setting splits of :23.37 and :47.55 while tracked by Family Tree. Unbridled Mo settled into a stalking spot four wide behind those two while I’m a Chatterbox trailed in last.
Unbridled Mo got the jump on her rival, moving up to take command while I’m a Chatterbox was still making up ground on the turn while four wide. I’m a Chatterbox gave chase but was never able to catch Unbridled Mo, who finished 1 1/16 miles over the fast main track in 1:42.89.
“I’m very happy,” owner John Brunetti said. “We had the best horse, best rider and best trainer. I can’t wait to get her into the breeding shed, but we’ve got more work to do. My son bred her and this is as good as it gets!”
“She just didn’t handle the inner dirt track at Aqueduct,” said Rick Sacco, who saddled Unbridled Mo for trainer Todd Pletcher. “She’s a great big filly and this was a very exciting win for the Brunetti family. Todd’s a world-class trainer. We’ll go home to Florida and think about her next start.”
“Todd told me to warm her up good and put her in a good position,” Ortiz explained. “She’s a big filly and when she hit her big stride, I felt I had a good chance. But when I’m a Chatterbox came to us, I got after my filly left-handed and we were able to win.”
Sent off the 9-2 third choice, Unbridled Mo paid $11.20 for the win. I’m a Chatterbox, the 1-2 favorite, had 1 1/4 lengths to spare over Family Tree in third, while it was another 1 1/2 lengths back to Steel Cut in fourth. Another Bond Girl and Danzatrice completed the order under the wire.
“She was a little wide, but still ran a good race,” trainer Larry Jones said of I’m a Chatterbox. “We got what we needed out of the race and that’s horseracing.”
Unbridled Mo took two tries to break her maiden last year, but once getting that initial victory at Monmouth Park on May 29 she went on a three-race win streak. Following an allowance/optional claiming score, the Uncle Mo bay made her stakes debut a neck victory in the Monmouth Oaks (G3) and went on to take the Remington Park Oaks. She closed out 2016 with a sixth in the Comely Stakes (G3).
Unbridled Mo improved her record to read 7-5-0-0 and doubled her earnings to $466,180 lifetime.
One race earlier, Ortiz guided Three Diamonds Farm’s Bigger Picture to victory in the $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3) as the even-money favorite. The six-year-old gelding took over after going a mile and scored by 1 1/4 lengths in a final time of 2:32.24 for 1 1/2 miles on the firm turf.
“The horse continued to train well and Jose had a great trip,” trainer Mike Maker said. “The rail opened up and he took advantage of it.
“Greengrassofyoming was compromised by the slow pace and Oscar Nominated ran a credible race in his first start a four-year-old,” Maker added of his other two Connally Turf Cup entrants.
“Going pretty slow in the beginning. I knew I had plenty of horse left,” Ortiz commented. “The first time we crossed the wire when he made the lead, I knew we had it.”
Oscar Nominated, the 3-2 second choice, came next under the wire while Greengrassofyoming was another three parts of a length back in third. Hay Dakota, West Road, Phantom Trip, Domikate and Fall of Troy filled out the order of finish.
Bigger Picture earned his first stakes credit when a nose second in last October’s Sycamore Stakes (G3). He then captured the Red Smith Handicap (G3) before wrapping up his five-year-old season with an eighth-place showing in the Claiming Crown Jewel on December 3.
Now boastings a 9-4-1 mark from 22 career starts, Bigger Picture has earned $586,735 lifetime.