Famously claimed for $16,000 out of her victorious debut, Martini Glass just keeps padding her bankroll – and her resume – for co-owners Vince Campanella and the Nation’s Racing Stable of trainer Keith Nations. After overturning Lewis Bay to earn her first graded victory in the February 19 Royal Delta (G3) at Gulfstream Park, the Florida shipper claimed another high-profile victim in 9-5 favorite Actress in Saturday’s $350,000 Azeri (G2) at Oaklawn Park.
The next step for Martini Glass, also runner-up in last summer’s Delaware H. (G1) to Songbird and in the Spinster (G1) at Keeneland, would be a breakthrough at the Grade 1 level. With the Azeri being a course-and-distance stepping stone to the April 13 Apple Blossom (G1), that’s the logical place to go. A certain champion by the name of Unique Bella is bound there too. Nations indicated that plans for Martini Glass, who’s not one to duck the competition, depend upon how she comes out of the Azeri.
Dispatched as the 3-1 second choice with regular rider Paco Lopez, Martini Glass was positioned within striking range of pacesetter Farrell through solid splits of :23.15, :46.92, and 1:11.23 on the fast track. Farrell repelled a bid from the prompting Terra Promessa, and cut the corner purposefully in hopes of giving the field the slip.
By that point, Martini Glass was unwinding on the outside, and it was obvious where the momentum lay. The daughter of Kitalpha swamped Farrell in short order, drawing off by three lengths.
Actress rallied belatedly to grab second by a half-length from Farrell. Next came Tiger Moth, who’d upset both Actress and Martini Glass when last seen in the January 28 Houston Ladies Classic (G3). Tiger Moth’s performance here may have been affected by her acting up in the gate. Terra Promessa tired to fifth, followed by Sandy’s Surprise, Blue Prize, and defending champion Streamline.
Martini Glass, by negotiating 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.95, improved her scorecard to 23-10-5-2, $863,675. The versatile mare is also a two-time winner on turf, notably in the December 2 Claiming Crown Tiara.
Bred by Aschinger Bloodstock in Kentucky, the five-year-old is out of the winning Run Softly mare Glassy. She hails from the extended family of Grade 2 victor Montserrat and French classic-placed Cresta Rider, a multiple Group 2 scorer. Further back, one finds 1941 Triple Crown legend Whirlaway.
Earlier in the $300,000 Essex H., the Todd Pletcher-trained Hedge Fund gave favorite backers a moment of concern on the far turn, but ultimately ran out a convincing winner.
The 5-2 choice dashed out to the early lead through fractions of :23.21 and :46.13. Accosted by Dalmore, who put his head in front at the six-furlong mark in 1:10.45, Hedge Fund was coming under pressure from Jose Ortiz. The Super Saver colt responded generously, shrugged off Dalmore, and skipped clear to a 2 3/4-length decision. His time of 1:42.06 for 1 1/16 miles was considerably faster than Martini Glass’s in the Azeri, with unbeaten sophomore Magnum Moon splitting them at 1:42.68 in the Rebel (G2).
Untrapped had a checkered passage in second, easily best of the rest by 3 1/4 lengths. Blueridge Traveler nabbed the weakening Dalmore by a head for third. Dazzling Gem was a non-threatening sixth, and the winner’s stablemate, Multiplier, trailed the field of seven.
Campaigned by breeder WinStar Farm with Head of Plains Partners, China Horse Club, and SF Racing, Hedge Fund was recording his first stakes win. The half-brother to Grade 2-winning millionaire Stanford was a graded stakes competitor last season at three. Beaten a head by Multiplier in the Illinois Derby (G3), Hedge Fund gained revenge here. He was also third in the Sunland Derby (G3) and demoted from fourth to sixth in the Sir Barton on Preakness Day. Hedge Fund was sidelined until February 11, when returning triumphant at Gulfstream. Now two-for-two this season, he sports an overall mark of 7-3-1-1, $376,560.
Hedge Fund could aim for the April 14 Oaklawn H. (G2), or try to emulate Stanford in the Charles Town Classic (G2) a week later on April 21. Out of the Distorted Humor mare Rosy Humor, the chestnut shares the same female line as transatlantic champion Johannesburg, Tale of the Cat, and Pulpit. So does Essex runner-up Untrapped.