Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) runner-up Restless Rider was all the rage in Saturday’s $200,000 Golden Rod (G2) over the same 1 1/16-mile trip at Churchill Downs, but the 27-1 Liora proved too stubborn for the 3-5 favorite to pass. Trained by Wayne Catalano and well ridden by son-in-law Channing Hill, the winner took charge early and grimly held Restless Rider in the Road to the Kentucky Oaks scoring race.
Coffeepot Stables’ Liora was overlooked as the longest shot on the board despite a nine-length, course-and-distance maiden romp on the first “Stars of Tomorrow” card October 28. Perhaps bettors were dissuaded by her uninspiring time, or by the fact that she took three tries to break her maiden. But her debut fourth at Saratoga came in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint, and her ensuing third at Churchill came on turf, and she looked a different proposition once trying two turns on the main track.
As a Candy Ride half-sister to 2016 Indiana Oaks (G2) and Iowa Oaks (G3) heroine Family Tree, also a Catalano pupil, Liora had upside, and began to fulfill it with a tactical coup here. The dark bay broke on top and got a length clear through an opening quarter in :24.81 on the sloppy track. When Chad Brown shipper Break Curfew moved up to prompt, Liora continued to travel comfortably clicking off splits of :49.68 and 1:14.70.
In the stretch, Liora kept on doggedly as Break Curfew retreated, but Restless Rider threw down what appeared to be a winning challenge. The odds-on choice accosted the leader, only to wander around a bit. Liora, in contrast, knuckled down and battled back. Although Restless Rider got re-organized and renewed her bid, Liora responded again, and kept her nose in front at the wire.
After completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.25, Liora rewarded her backers with a $56.80 win payout. She pocketed 10 Oaks points in the Golden Rod, putting her fourth on the leaderboard.
Restless Rider earned 4 points for her near-miss, bringing up her overall total to 22. She still ranks second to Breeders’ Cup winner Jaywalk (30 points) on the list.
High Regard boxed on for third, 2 1/2 lengths behind the top two, an effort worth 2 points. Champagne Anyone recovered from being shuffled back in traffic to get up for fourth and score 1 point. Gold Credit, Princess Causeway, Break Curfew, and the tailed-off Reflect rounded out the order of finish.
Liora, a $175,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, has bankrolled $176,580 from her 4-2-0-1 line. Bred by Dell Ridge Farm in Kentucky, the juvenile is out of stakes winner and Monmouth course record-setter Giant Mover, by Giant’s Causeway. Giant Mover is in turn a daughter of multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Gold Mover.
Thus Liora sports the same cross as Horse of the Year Gun Runner, also by Candy Ride from a well-related Giant’s Causeway mare.