It might have been billed “Coolmore Day” at Keeneland, but rival empire Godolphin upstaged the branding exercise with a four-win day crowned by Dickinson’s upset of Lady Eli in the $350,000 Jenny Wiley (G1).
Few could have envisioned that outcome in the stretch drive, when the 6-1 Dickinson had the door shut on her, and 1-2 favorite Lady Eli sailed clear. But this was the day that Kiaran McLaughlin’s Godolphin team could do no wrong at Keeneland. Despite having to alter course and lose precious time, Dickinson turned on the afterburners to edge Lady Eli by a head at the wire.
The homebred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro and 2008 Ashland (G1) heroine Little Belle thereby gave McLaughlin a record-tying fourth win on the card. The Lexington, Kentucky, native joins Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and Todd Pletcher in the Keeneland record book for most wins on a single card.
“That’s great company to be in,” McLaughlin said.
“For Godolphin, it’s a great day, and she’s just a nice filly. We had trouble, and it still worked out. Just unbelievable to win four at Keeneland, especially ending on a Grade 1.”
Jockey Paco Lopez, who extricated Dickinson in time, turned Godolphin’s graded double. Earlier, he guided Watershed to victory in the Ben Ali (G3). The blue team’s other winners were three-year-old filly Tasteful, ridden by Joel Rosario to a resounding maiden score from the rear (4TH race), and Zennor, who landed a turf allowance beneath Joe Bravo (6TH race).
Dickinson was in the garden spot most of the way, drafting in the slipstream of front-running Catch a Glimpse through splits of :23.74, :48.05, and 1:12.63 on the firm turf. Lady Eli, making her first start since a heartbreaking last-stride loss in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), was also saving ground on the inside but behind Dickinson in sixth.
While the odds-on favorite was able to peel out to offer her challenge in the stretch, Dickinson tried to take the inside route and split Catch a Glimpse and Illuminant. That soon turned into a no-go zone, however. Dickinson had to tap on the brakes and wait for Lady Eli to swoop past. At that point, she could be marked down as unlucky – until she made her own luck.
“I had a little trouble,” Lopez recapped of his passage aboard Dickinson. “I wanted to go through on the rail and it opened up a little bit but I couldn’t get through. When the other horse (Lady Eli) passed me, we got room and I still had a lot of filly.”
Lady Eli, whose head was cocked right for a time, drifted out a couple of paths as she asserted herself. Her move would ordinarily have been enough to win, but the comebacker hooked a rival in career-best form.
Sharp as a tack off scores in the February Suwannee River (G3) and March 11 Hillsborough (G2), Dickinson found another gear. She ripped her final sixteenth in :5.85, according to Trakus, compared to Lady Eli’s :6.09, and that was the difference. For Lady Eli’s legion of fans, it was shades of getting nabbed by Queen’s Trust in the Filly & Mare Turf.
“Hats off to the winner,” her trainer Chad Brown graciously commented. “Both ran well but we just got beat right on the wire just like we did in the Breeders’ Cup. It’s tough but it was her first start of the year so hopefully she will move forward off of it. We’ll get her back to Belmont Park and then pick out a race up there. She is a neck and two noses from being undefeated. She is a great horse and I am really proud of her effort today. The horse that beat her is a very good horse as well. She had been training terrific; no excuses today.”
Lady Eli’s rider, Irad Ortiz Jr., was already dissecting the loss.
“It was a perfect trip; I just got beat,” Ortiz offered. “She might have been waiting on horses. Maybe she moved a little too early.”
Dickinson clocked 1:41.98 for 1 1/16 miles, paying $14.40 to win and upping her line to 14-7-1-2, $604,316.
Last October’s Valley View (G3) winner Quidura boxed on for third, just lasting by a nose from the fast-finishing Kitten’s Roar.
“When I tipped her out in the clear at the quarter pole, she didn’t quicken up like I was expecting, probably because she’s coming off a layoff,” jockey Junior Alvarado commented. “Then Lady Eli went through and my filly wasn’t quick enough to keep up with her.
“My filly started picking it up and grinding away more than quickening at that point. After that she kept grinding and grinding. I thought she ran a great race coming off the layoff. We’re very happy with the way she ran. It was a great third and we know she’ll move forward from this race.”
Kitten’s Roar, last until inside the eighth-pole, flew to post a field-best final sixteenth (:5.83) as reported by Trakus.
“(Trainer Mike Maker) told me to let her settle wherever she was,” Rosario said of Kitten’s Roar. “She was a little farther back than I wanted to be, but it looked like they were going nice up front and she was very comfortable and very happy. She put in a very nice run at the end. The first two, they were really running at the end. My horse put in a tremendous run at the end. Too bad we didn’t get there.”
Goodyearforroses was fifth, followed by a lackluster Time and Motion, Illuminant, and Catch a Glimpse.
Time and Motion’s connections couldn’t detect a reason for her failure to fire.
“She just did not show up today,” Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez said.
“No excuse,” trainer Jimmy Toner commented.
Catch a Glimpse gave way tamely late after appearing to control events up front.
“Great trip,” jockey Florent Geroux said. “She broke super sharp and made the lead nice and easy. She was just having fun out on the lead. I was pretty excited turning for home, but when they came, they just outran her in the end.”
“She had a perfect trip,” assistant trainer David Carroll agreed. “No excuses on the day. Florent Geroux commented how easy she was doing things. At the quarter pole, he said she felt like he had a lot of horse but they quickened up and she just couldn’t go with them today.”
With both Dickinson and Lady Eli bound for Belmont Park, we could be treated to a rematch. But McLaughlin mentioned the one-mile Just a Game (G1) on Belmont Day as the next likely port of call for Dickinson, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Lady Eli prefers to return to a longer trip.