by TERESA GENARO
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — The five-horse 2017 edition of the Honorable Miss H. (G2) turned into a two-horse race, with Finley’sluckycharm getting nailed at the wire, having to settle for second by a neck, with the rest of the field a dozen lengths behind.
The five-horse 2018 edition of the $200,000 race also turned into a two-horse race, but this time, Finley’sluckycharm would not be denied, winning a hard-fought battle to prevail by a 2 1/4 lengths over a stubborn Vertical Oak.
Running on a track labeled good after earlier showers, jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., the five-year-old mare’s regular rider making a rare appearance at Saratoga, and Finley’sluckycharm went out to a short lead that she ceded to Vertical Oak, who moved to the front after an awkward break. Finley’sluckycharm stayed right with Vertical Oak, and the two of them pulled away from their rivals, dueling to the wire. Kirby’s Penny finished 9 1/4 lengths back in third.
“That was awesome,” declared owner Carl R. Moore.
“That was great after last year being beaten a neck by Paulassilverlining,” Hernandez said. “We all went out to dinner and had our heads down, but this year we get to go to dinner and have a little celebration. We put Vertical Oak away in the lane, but she kept coming back at us.”
It was Moore who selected the early April filly at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale, eventually naming her for his granddaughter, now nine years old.
“It was Twirling Candy’s first year of babies, and she was very balanced and athletic,” said Moore. “She’s a later baby and a little immature, but she looked like an athlete.”
A bargain at $77,000, Finley’sluckycharm has earned $913,000. Out of the Victory Gallop mare Day of Victory, she’s trained by Bret Calhoun. The dark bay/brown mare is one of four foals from the mare to make the races, and by far the most accomplished.
Finley’sluckycharm came to the six-furlong Honorable Miss after a fourth-place finish in the Humana Distaff (G1) on the Kentucky Derby undercard, running a month after a nose win in the Madison (G1) at Keeneland. Moore dismissed the Churchill Downs effort as a bounce.
“I thought we were the one to beat today,” said the owner. “We ran her back too quick last time, but she’s been doing great.”
“I think that’s the opportunity to bounce back out of a race as good as any,” said Calhoun. “I don’t think it was super strenuous. She ran fast, but at least she wasn’t in a gut-wrenching race.”
That bounce has Moore speaking cautiously about the plans for the mare, which may include Saratoga but which will be decided based on a return to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1), in which she finished ninth last year.
“She’s a special family horse,” said Moore. “Everyone’s watching and very excited about her.”