As the only race on Preakness Day to remain on the Pimlico turf course, Saturday’s $150,000 Gallorette (G3) shaped up as a test of who could plow through the soft going. Alex G. Campbell Jr.’s homebred Ultra Brat adapted swimmingly in a 10 1/4-length rout.
Although the conditions were more fitting for National Hunt gladiators than a graded stakes on the Flat, only two scratched, defending Gallorette champion Cambodia and Special Event. Elysea’s World, third as the even-money favorite behind Cambodia last year, was again backed to prevail at odds of 6-5.
Ultra Brat, the 8-5 second choice, had a productive winter campaign with a victory in the Marshua’s River (G3) and a close third to Elysea’s World in the Suwannee River (G3). The Graham Motion pupil did not put her best forward last time out in the Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland, where she never got involved after failing to break alertly, but made amends here.
Ridden for the first time by Jose Ortiz, Ultra Brat got herself into the game early. The Uncle Mo mare raced third behind front-running Stallion Heiress through an opening quarter in :25.12, and took closer order in second at the half in :51.56. That was a shrewd move in light of Stallion Heiress’s questionable stamina trying to route on such energy-sapping ground. She was likely to wilt, and Ultra Brat was in the perfect spot to pick up the baton before any closer could lift a hoof.
The moment came at the six-furlong split in 1:18.60, when Ultra Brat took control and widened her advantage from there. French import Blessed Silence was the lone entrant proven in desperate conditions, but Ultra Brat was long gone by the time she rallied from last. As the winner slogged through a mile in 1:46.50 and took 1:53.72 to navigate 1 1/16 miles, the rest were laboring for the minor awards.
While Blessed Silence appeared on her way to a clear second, even she began to tread water late, allowing third-placer Brooks House to cut her margin in half to three-quarters of a length at the wire. Elysea’s World, who tried to work into contention approaching the far turn, was just going up and down and wound up fourth. A spent Stallion Heiress checked in a further nine lengths adrift in fifth, and the eased Lake Ponchatrain did not finish.
Ultra Brat has now earned $378,299 from her 14-6-1-1 record. She began her career on the main track, and finished seventh in the 2016 Miss Preakness (G3) in her stakes bow, before finding her true home on turf later that season. Successful in her grass debut in the Christiecat at Belmont Park, Ultra Brat capped her sophomore campaign by scoring in the Tropical Park Oaks. But her progress was interrupted by an 11-month spell on the sidelines. She resurfaced in last November’s Autumn Days at Aqueduct and finished fourth, an effort where lack of fitness told late, and regained the winning thread next time in the Marshua’s River.
Out of the winning Storm Cat mare Prof. McGonagall, Ultra Brat is a half-sister to It’s Tea Time, who won the off-the-turf Lake Placid (G3) in 2010, placed in the Ashland (G1), and took fourth in the Spinster (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1). This is the extended family of two-time champions Songbird and Groupie Doll, and further back, Graustark and His Majesty.
Quotes from Pimlico
Trainer Graham Motion on Ultra Brat: “It kind of worked out in my favor today. I was worried about running (on the turf). It’s so tiring. I can’t exactly imagine the difference to running on this kind of turf and running on firm turf. None of us really knew how she would handle it, but obviously she handled it well. Jose did a great job. I have so much confidence in him.
“She ran maybe a little closer than I thought she’d be. I was a little nervous to be honest because it’s so tiring but Jose knew what he was doing.”
Winning rider Jose Ortiz: “She ran perfect. She broke great and we went to a good position. She relaxed well, and that was the most important thing. Because she can be a little high strung, like in the post parade. From the three-eighths pole I tested her to see if she was going to go. I showed her the whip a little bit and she jumped in the bit beautifully. I let her go on. I knew nobody would gain a lot of ground, so I wanted to make the first move.
“First time I rode her, I always liked her. I saw that she’d won already one time over the wet grass, so I knew we had a really good chance. I mean, she was 8-5, but that was a plus. And she was perfect. She handled it well. She got a little tired at the end, just like everybody else, because it was heavy ground. But everything was good.”
Trainer Christophe Clement’s assistant Christophe Lorieul on runner-up Blessed Silence: “She was probably second-best today. She was at the back of the pack, saving ground and we wanted (jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.) to keep her together on that kind of turf today. She has a short but good turn of foot. She came to do something, then she could not quite catch the winner. But she ran great, and we’re very happy with her performance. She’s graded stakes-placed now, so that’s out of the way.”
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. on Blessed Silence: “The race went great. I tried to wait as much as I could, but she’s probably better at a mile flat, but she did good. Second best.”
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen on third-placer Brooks House: “Under the conditions we’re just going to have to be happy with the results. I thought she kept trying to run, but it’s softer turf than you’ll ever run on again, probably.”
Ricardo Santana Jr., who rode Brooks House: “She wasn’t really handling it, and she still ran. I was happy with how she ran.”
Trainer Chad Brown on Elysea’s World, fourth as the favorite: “It didn’t look like she handled the ground. It’s part of horse racing. Everyone ran over the same ground today. For this filly, today, it didn’t seem to work for us. Didn’t really have her action on the far turn, and didn’t really kick.”
Jockey Javier Castellano on Elysea’s World: “She didn’t handle it – too much water in the ground. She was splashing and was struggling a little bit. It was very soft for her. It was a safe course, though, because we were running on new ground that hadn’t been used on the inside. We had a lot of high and tall grass and it was safe. The horses weren’t going all the way to the bottom. It was just splashing water and some horses don’t like that.”