August 10, 2020

Aquaphobia upsets United Nations; Lady prevails in Matchmaker

Aquaphobia
Aquaphobia with Joe Bravo riding won the 2020 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park (Ryan Denver/EQUI-PHOTO)

As a son of the “Iron Horse” Giant’s Causeway and multiple Grade 1 queen Pussycat Doll, Aquaphobia fostered hopes early in his career of becoming a major winner himself. It’s taken four years, with a detour through the claiming ranks and a couple of changes in connections, but the now 7-year-old veteran finally reached the pinnacle in Saturday’s $315,000 United Nations Stakes (G1) at Monmouth.

Trained by Mike Maker for Paradise Farms Corp., David Staudacher, Hooties Racing, and Skychai Racing, Aquaphobia has developed into a graded-caliber performer since being claimed for $62,500 at Gulfstream Park in January. His fourths in the Mar. 28 Muniz Memorial Classic (G2) at Fair Grounds and the June 20 Wise Dan (G2) at Churchill Downs, bookending a second in the May 9 Sunshine Forever at Gulfstream Park, suggested that he’d earned his chance here.

The step up in trip to 1 3/8 miles – his longest race in more than two years – helped, as did a well-judged ride by “Jersey” Joe Bravo who was winning his fifth United Nations. Sent off at 10-1, Aquaphobia secured a stalking spot in third on the rail, flanked much of the way by Corelli. In contrast, 13-10 favorite Arklow was lagging in last of the nine-horse field, and didn’t give his backers much cause for enthusiasm.

Up front, Paret carved out fractions of :24.50, :48.90, 1:14.41, and 1:38.48 on the firm turf. O Dionysus chased until giving way on the final turn, when Corelli peeled outside to pass him. Aquaphobia stuck to his guns on the inside for the time being, but angled out a path entering the lane to go after Paret.

Corelli was rallying wider out at the same time, and the two stalkers were racing alongside each other again, this time at the decisive stage. Aquaphobia found the superior turn of foot to outkick Corelli and overtake the game Paret by a length in 2:12.63.

Australian import Paret and third-placer Corelli, a Kentucky-bred who’d spent the first 10 races of his career in England, did their bit to contribute to the race name. Arklow ground his way into fourth, 3 3/4 lengths behind Corelli. Next came the other Maker, Muggsamatic; Current; Standard Deviation; Eve’s Medal; and O Dionysus.

Aquaphobia inherits his aptitude as a turf router from his sire, for Pussycat Doll earned her signature wins in a trio of 7-furlong dirt sprints – the 2005 La Brea (G1), 2006 Humana Distaff (G1), and 2007 Santa Monica (G1). Sired by Real Quiet, Pussycat Doll was emulating her dam, 1999 La Brea heroine Hookedonthefeelin, who also produced 2012 Malibu (G1) winner Jimmy Creed.

Pussycat Doll’s first two runners were by Dynaformer, and likewise took more after his top progeny as long-distance turfistes. Set to Music was stakes-placed on turf and over hurdles, while Forever Popular captured the 2016 Aphrodite S. at Newmarket.

That same summer of 2016, a 3-year-old Aquaphobia was a promising homebred for Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stable. He’d already progressed from placing in the James W. Murphy at Pimlico to winning a turf stakes, the Stanton at Delaware Park, only to be sidelined after an 11th in the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1). Resurfacing in 2017, he wasn’t fulfilling his early promise, with a distant third in the Cape Henlopen his lone stakes attempt of the season. He was dropped in for a $25,000 tag in an allowance/optional claimer at Belmont that fall, and won, but trainer Robert Falcone promptly scooped him up for Drawing Away Stable. Aquaphobia had some success in 2018 for his new connections, winning three times including the Super Bowl Starter H. at Santa Anita, then endured a winless 2019.

Once Maker picked him up, Aquaphobia won first off the claim in the Feb. 17 Old Man Eloquent, one of the starter stakes on Gulfstream’s Presidents’ Day card. The rejuvenated bay has left his non-black-type days well behind. With his graded breakthrough in the United Nations, he has compiled a record of 36-9-6-6, $647,361. And as an entire, Aquaphobia has also earned himself a place at stud somewhere.

Earlier in the $152,500 Matchmaker Stakes (G3), Nay Lady Nay engineered a similar trip to prevail over stablemate Beautiful Lover in an all-Chad Brown exacta.

The 2.20-1 favorite with Paco Lopez, Nay Lady Nay was settled in a ground-saving third early. Front-running Valedictorian doled out splits of :23.62, :47.68, and 1:10.94, first attended and then accosted by Brown’s other runner, Tapit Today. The top two got away from the field on the backstretch, but by the time Tapit Today took over in the stretch, her stablemates were bearing down.

Nay Lady Nay had the gears to take the seam between Tapit Today and Beautiful Lover, and drove through to a half-length decision. Her final time for 1 1/8 grassy miles – 1:46.21 – wasn’t far off the course mark of 1:45.92 set by They Call Me Giant in 2010.

The Christophe Clement-trained Feel Glorious rallied to grab third from Tapit Today, preventing a Brown trifecta. Varenka checked in fifth, followed by Valedictorian and High Regard. Xenobia was scratched.

The top three finishers will receive an added award courtesy of sponsor WinStar Farm, which is offering seasons to three of their stallions – Exaggerator, Take Charge Indy, and Yoshida.

First Row Partners and Hidden Brook Farm’s Nay Lady Nay improved her scorecard to 7-4-1-0, $356,180. The No Nay Never filly progressed from a maiden win here last summer to land the Parx Fall Oaks and Mrs. Revere (G2) at Churchill Downs. She was only beaten a couple of lengths when eighth in her reappearance in the May 30 Mint Julep (G3) back at Churchill, and moved forward second time off the layoff.

Nay Lady Nay was bred by Stephen Sullivan in Ireland, where her Group 2-winning full brother Arizona is based with trainer Aidan O’Brien. A high-profile juvenile of 2019, Arizona justified favoritism in Royal Ascot’s Coventry (G2) and twice placed to Pinatubo, when second in the Dewhurst (G1) and third in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1). He’s yet to build on his resume this season, with unplaced efforts in the 2000 Guineas (G1), St James’s Palace (G1), and most recently the July 12 Prix Jean Prat (G1).

Their dam, the English Channel mare Lady Ederle, is a daughter of 1993 Oaks d’Italia (G1) heroine Bright Generation who is also the ancestress of multiple Group 1-winning French juvenile champion Dabirsim. This is the further family of ill-fated classic victress Sea of Class, the near-misser to Enable in the 2018 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1).

Thrice sold at auction, Nay Lady Nay first went to Bobby O Ryan for €44,000 at the 2016 Goffs November Foal Sale. Gatewood Bell, agent, secured the filly for €50,000 as a Goffs Orby yearling, and she turned a profit when selling for $210,000 as an OBS March juvenile.