Fern Circle Stables’ Stronger Than Ever overtook even-money favorite Wonder Gadot in the stretch of Saturday’s $148,500 Silverbulletday Stakes and gutted out a neck victory over that rival on the Fair Grounds wire for trainer Kenny McPeek.
Shes Our Fastest, the 74-1 second longest shot on the board, exchanged bumps at the start before racing forward to grab command while three wide on the first turn. Setting splits of :23.57 and :47.43, the dark bay miss was stalked by Wonder Gadot, who kept pace on the inside before angling out to be two wide on the backstretch.
Jockey John Velazquez asked Wonder Gadot entering the final turn and the Medaglia d’Oro filly responded, moving up to take over. She separated herself from the rest of the field at first, but Stronger Than Ever was closing fast on the outside with Florent Geroux aboard. The eventual winner bided her time in last early, was wide on the last bend and rallied down the five path in the lane to first challenge and then inch clear of Wonder Gadot to secure the victory.
Stronger Than Ever paid $68.40 for finishing a mile-and-70 yards in 1:44.28 over Fair Grounds fast main track. Wonder Gadot was best-of-the-rest, 4 1/2 lengths up on 23-1 shot Missive in third. It was another 1 3/4 lengths back to fourth-placer Blonde Bomber, who entered here off a third in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
Rounding out the order of finish were Heavenly Love, Terra’s Angel, America’s Tale and Shes Our Fastest.
This win not only improved Stronger Than Ever’s career record to read 5-3-0-1, $174,846, it also awarded the Congrats filly 10 points toward a starting berth in the May 4 Kentucky Oaks (G1). The Silverbulletday is part of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of points races, and was worth 10-4-2-1 points to the respective top four finishers.
Stronger Than Ever was making her third straight try in a stakes in this spot, having captured her initial pair of starts at Churchill Downs and Keeneland before running seventh in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at that former track and shipping to Remington Park for a third in the Trapeze Stakes last out on December 17.
Bred in Kentucky by J. Stuart, P. Bance, J. Amling and C. Noell, Stronger Than Ever is the first registered stakes scorer out of the stakes-placed Broken Vow mare Broken Silence. That mare is a half-sister to the dam of Grade 1-winning millionaire Rail Trip as well as a half-sibling to the granddam of 2013 Belmont Stakes (G1) king Palace Malice.
Florent Geroux, jockey Stronger Than Ever, winner
“The trip was not great, actually. My filly fought very hard all the way to the wire. (Wonder Gadot) gave my filly a run for her money. The distance wasn’t an issue and she showed that she can race pretty well. There was a very honest pace up front and I think that my filly is pretty nice.”
Greg Geier, assistant trainer Stronger Than Ever, winner
“She did everything like she was supposed to do. Hopefully we can go from here. I thought she would run well especially with the pace that was in the race and we just let them sit there and wait and make one big run. She ran a good race at Remington, she stuck wide out there and got a little tired but she did fine today. We’ll see what (trainer) Kenny (McPeek) wants to do (for her next start).”
Mark Casse, trainer Wonder Gadot (2nd), Heavenly Love (5th)
“I thought she ran well, we just got unlucky. She fought on and she probably wants a little more ground where she doesn’t have to be so aggressive early. It’ll be interesting because I think the time will end up being fairly good. I’ve got to think about (running in the February 17 Rachel Alexandra Stakes [G1]), but probably.”
On Heavenly Love:
“She got in a little trouble. She likes and wants a little harder ground maybe. We’ve always said Keeneland and Churchill are a little more turfy. That’s twice now she’s kind of lost her action.”
Michael Stidham, trainer Missive, third
“Very pleased to get stakes placing. I thought she ran a big race. Off that effort, I would probably say we run in the next one (Rachel Alexandra) as long as she comes out of it okay.”