James M. Miller’s LOVELY BERNADETTE scored her first win this year, as well as her first for new trainer Bernie Flint, taking the $100,000 Mint Julep Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
The four-year-old daughter of Wilburn raced near the back of the 10-strong field as Sully’s Dream led the way through splits of :23.38, :46.39 and 1:10.83. Once given her signal by jockey Corey Lanerie, Lovely Bernadette angled off the rail on the far turn, began picking off rivals and set her sights on new leader Celestial Insight. She got up just in time to stick her neck in front on the wire to finish 1 1/16 miles over the firm Churchill turf in 1:42.36.
Sent off the 5-2 second choice, Lovely Bernadette paid $7.60 for the win. Celestial Insight filled the second spot, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Inchargeofme. It was another half-length back to Sully’s Dream, who was followed under the line by 2-1 favorite Res Ipsa, Youngest Daughter, Victory to Victory, Inveniam Viam, Ministry and Red Dane.
Lovely Bernadette is now 17-8-0-3 in her career and has earned $568,479 lifetime. The bay miss is a perfect three-for-three over the Churchill Downs turf, having captured an allowance/optional claimer in her grass bow last June under the Twin Spires and the Mrs. Revere Stakes (G2) to conclude her sophomore campaign on November 24. That wrapped up a stakes hat trick for the filly which began in the Indiana Grand Stakes and also included the Valley View Stakes (G3) at Keeneland.
Bred in Kentucky by David E. Hager II, Lovely Bernadette is no stranger to winning on the main track either, taking the Rags to Riches Stakes as a juvenile. She is the first registered foal out of the Bernstein mare Inlovewithlove and comes from the same female family as Hall of Famer filly Ruffian.
MINT JULEP HANDICAP QUOTES
Corey Lanerie, jockey Lovely Bernadette, winner
“We were a little far back up the backstretch. I thought the horses up front were going pretty fast but I didn’t anticipate being that far out of it. When I asked her to go at first she didn’t respond right away but when we turned for home she really kicked it into gear.”
Bernie Flint, trainer Lovely Bernadette, winner
“She came to our barn after her last start in the Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland and has been training great into this race. I knew she’d run a good race and it would just become a jockey’s race if we were able to get there. I’m very proud of her effort.”
Joe Rocco Jr., jockey Celestial Insight, second
“I had a beautiful trip. It couldn’t have worked out better. They went fast (up front) and I was able to sit in the pocket the whole way. My horse was nice and relaxed and when I call on her she took off. It’s been a long time since her last race, so I tried to wait as long as I could. (Trainer) Graham (Motion) does such a great job of getting them ready. She ran hard to the wire; she’s a really game filly. Hopefully she has a big rest of the year ahead of her.”
Charlie LoPresti, trainer Inchargeofme, third
“I wasn’t disappointed. They (the owners) wanted to get a graded placing and we got that done. We got her this year and we’ve run her three times and she won at Keeneland and was second here and they wanted to try this, and I told them I thought this was a good chance to try to get some black type. She ran on at the end, she was coming at the end. She was further back than we wanted her to be, but that’s just the way it unfolded.”
Adam Beschizza, jockey Inchargeofme, third
“I had a perfect trip – she was very unfussed. They went a nice strong gallop (up front) for me and we just worked our way into it. She’s progressing in the right direction, this filly, and she’s now graded (stakes)-placed, so whatever happens the future’s bright for her when she retires, so it’s good to get that locked down.”
Did you think you had a chance to win at any point?
“I did, but the winner had marginally more horse than me at the eighth-pole and she quickened up nicely by me, but she’s run a gallant race and that’s good for her.”