by J. Keeler Johnson
A long ship, a wide trip, an unfamiliar racing surface – any one of these obstacles would have been a logical excuse for Pamina to come up short in the C$125,000 Ontario Matron Stakes (G3) at Woodbine on Saturday.
However, when Pamina was put to the test by favored Katie Baby in the homestretch of the 1 1/16-mile race, she dug deep, resiliently turned back the challenge, and crossed the wire a head in front to score her first graded victory.
The four-year-old daughter of Street Cry was a capable performer on turf last season, placing second in the Pucker Up Stakes (G3) at Arlington, but she’s clearly taken a step forward in 2019. After the dark bay lass kicked off the season with an allowance victory on grass at Delaware Park, trainer Michael Dickinson elected to ship Pamina north to Canada for the Ontario Matron, where she would race over the synthetic Tapeta track for just the second time in her career.
Reserved in midpack under jockey Luis Contreras, Pamina traveled well throughout the race, but encountered a new obstacle on the far turn. Modest early fractions of :24.35, :48.08 and 1:11.31 created a tightly-bunched field, so in order to launch her bid Pamina had to circle the leaders while racing four or five paths off the rail.
In the meantime, Katie Baby – fresh off a runner-up effort in the Hendrie Stakes (G3) at Woodbine – managed to slip through along the inside, saving ground while Pamina took the scenic route around the track. The two fillies pulled away from their opposition down the lane and, for a few moments, it appeared Katie Baby had the momentum to steal the victory. But Pamina refused to concede and held on to prevail in 1:42.42.
Bred in Kentucky by Godolphin and racing in the colors of Augustin Stable, Pamina returned $15.20 to win as the 6-1 fourth choice among 11 starters. Katie Baby paid $3.80 to place.
In retrospect, perhaps Pamina’s relative lack of racing experience over Tapeta was deceiving. After all, she trains at Dickinson’s Tapeta Farm in Maryland, where she has recorded eight workouts over the farm’s Tapeta training track.
Regardless, Pamina has now emerged as a multi-surface threat capable of contending in graded races over both turf and synthetic tracks. Dickinson will have no shortage of options for Pamina’s next start, which is always a delightful problem for any horseman to have.