by J. Keeler Johnson
The $120,100 Roxelana Stakes at Churchill Downs was billed as a showdown between the high-class four-year-old Mia Mischief and the brilliant three-year-old Covfefe. Such matchups often fall short of expectations, but in the Roxelana, these fast fillies put on a show worth the price of admission.
Immediately out of the starting gate, the two favorites engaged in a torrid battle for supremacy. Covfefe, exiting a track record-shattering victory in the Miss Preakness Stakes (G3) at Pimlico, came away with the slimmest of leads. However, matching her stride for stride on the outside was Mia Mischief, fresh off a career-best victory in the Humana Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
Covfefe and Mia Mischief remained locked together through blazing fractions of :21.38 and :44.41, with neither giving an inch around the turn. They remained a pair turning for home, with Covfefe still tenaciously clinging to the lead. Down the lane, though, the strength of the older Mia Mischief proved to be the deciding factor. Inch by inch, Mia Mischief edged away to prevail by a half-length while stopping the clock for six furlongs in 1:09.76.
Awestruck, taking advantage of the blazing speed duel, rallied late to narrowly edge Covfefe for second place, while Honey Bunny and Classy Act completed the order of finish.
“(Mia Mischief) is such a nice filly and we beat a very nice filly in Covfefe today,” winning jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. said. “Going around the turn, (Covfefe) kicked clear a little bit and got me a little worried. Mia is such class and just kept digging in for more.”
With three victories from four starts this season, Mia Mischief has emerged as quite possibly the leading female sprinter in North America. Mia Mischief has long shown talent, but her efforts this year have elevated her status to a new level, and defeating the brilliant Covfefe was a big step toward claiming division leadership.
Yet Covfefe didn’t lose any luster with her game third-place finish. Facing older mares in June is a tough task for a three-year-old, but Covfefe handled the task with aplomb, refusing to fade after the intense speed duel to finish just a half-length behind at the wire. The August 3 Test Stakes (G1) against fellow sophomores at Saratoga could be the perfect place for Covfefe to rebound, and when the Breeders’ Cup rolls around, Covfefe could well be stronger, faster, and ready for a rematch with Mia Mischief.