February 25, 2021

Mother Mother schools Rags to Riches rivals; Dunph dominates Spendthrift

Mother Mother captured the Rags to Riches Stakes under jockey Florent Geroux at Churchill Downs on October 28, 2018 (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert kicked off Breeders’ Cup week by winning the first stakes of the Churchill Downs Fall Meet, Sunday’s $103,200 Rags to Riches S., with Mother Mother.

Aside from confirming the barn’s well-being, the 8-5 shot also flattered likely Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) favorite Bellafina, who left Mother Mother behind as a distant second in the September 1 Del Mar Debutante (G1).

An ensuing fever prompted connections not to press Mother Mother onto the Breeders’ Cup track, and this easier spot will likely serve as a stepping stone to better things. The winner of last year’s Rags to Riches has turned out pretty well – Monomoy Girl.

Sunday’s renewal got off to an eventful start when Chocolate Kisses hopped and unseated jockey Julien Leparoux.

“She just stumbled pretty bad out of the gate,” Leparoux recapped. “I’m OK – just a bad scenario.”

Meanwhile, Mother Mother flashed speed in first-time blinkers and headed Into Mystic through splits of :22.55 and :45.16. Under Florent Geroux, the California shipper began to open up at the six-furlong mark in 1:09.82, and despite wearying late, kept on well enough to prevail by 1 3/4 lengths. Mother Mother negotiated the one-turn mile on a fast track in 1:36.72.

“She got a little bit of a temperature after her last race which threw the Breeders’ Cup plans out,” assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes commented. “Bob said, ‘Let’s go out there and see what happens.’ We added blinkers to get her a little bit more aggressive. She was a little laid back but they’ve shown they help.”

“When Bob sends horses to Kentucky,” Geroux said, “you can always feel confident putting them up into the race. She ended up getting a little tired late but put her head down and tried hard to the end. She is very professional. She switched leads at the right time and tried hard.”

Molto Bella, the 26-1 longest shot on the board, stayed on for runner-up honors.

“She ran really well,” jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. said. “I thought she had a great trip but just didn’t get to the winner.”

High Regard rallied from last to take third, 10 3/4 lengths clear of Princesa Carolina. Fifth-placer Take Charge Angel, the 7-5 favorite, wilted after chasing Mother Mother’s pace, as did the trailing Into Mystic. Love My Honey and My Wynter Rose were scratched.

Mother Mother was one of Baffert’s smart debut winners at Del Mar, drawing off by 6 1/2 lengths in her July 22 unveiling, and her scorecard now stands at 3-2-1-0, $159,161. She has every right to improve as a May 20 foal, and as a Pioneerof the Nile half-sister to Commanding Curve, second to California Chrome in the 2014 Kentucky Derby (G1). Their dam, the winning Lion Hearted mare Mother, hails from the family of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Proper Reality.

Bred by T.F. VanMeter in Kentucky, Mother Mother was sold for $450,000 as a Keeneland September yearling to George Bolton, who races her in partnership with Barry Hall, Barry Lipman, Mark Mathiesen, and Andrew Molasky.

Dunph and jockey Tyler Gaffalione romp in the Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes at Churchill Downs on October 28, 2018 (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

Two races later, Dunph made a winning first start for new co-owners in the $150,000 Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion S. After his 8 1/2-length debut conquest at Penn National for Joseph Besecker and trainer Timothy Kreiser, Three Diamonds Farm bought into the gelding and transferred him to Mike Maker.

Dunph, as a son of Temple City, qualified for this stakes restricted to progeny sired by Spendthrift stallions. The 4-1 chance prompted front-runner B.B. Dude through fractions of :22.68 and :45.81, took charge, and blew the race open. Dunph was clear when reaching six furlongs in 1:10.66, and he widened his margin to 7 3/4 lengths while clocking seven furlongs in 1:23.20.

“The horse broke really sharp and I got into the spot I wanted,” winning rider Tyler Gaffalione said. “When I turned for home I still had a ton of horse left. I think he’ll just keep getting better as the distances get longer. I think I like it here in Kentucky.”

“That was very impressive,” Maker said. “He’s been doing well over at Trackside and has a very bright future.”

Maiden filly Naughty Joker edged another filly, Matron (G3) fourth Into the South, for second. Both are by Into Mischief. Casa Creed, the 7-2 favorite on the class drop from a seventh in the Champagne (G1), wound up sixth.

Dunph, now two-for-two by a combined margin of more than 16 lengths, has bankrolled $105,540. Bred by Equus Farm in the Bluegrass State, he RNA’d twice as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling before selling for $27,500 as an OBS March two-year-old. He is out of the winning Sky Mesa mare Skymynx, a descendant of Canadian Horse of the Year Ruling Angel.