Jockey Joel Rosario completed his record-setting Kentucky Downs meet with a Sunday stakes double aboard Tobys Heart and Koala Princess, and Brendan Walsh became co-leading trainer when Family Way took the $498,500 Ladies Marathon.
Godolphin’s Micheline was trying to give Rosario a stakes sweep, but the inside path that had worked so well in the two prior stakes didn’t pan out for her. Instead, it was a former Godolphin colorbearer, Family Way, who broke through with Tyler Gaffalione to notch her first stakes victory. That win also lifted Walsh into a tie for the Kentucky Downs training title, along with Steve Asmussen and Mike Maker.
“She has been a little bit temperamental, but not too bad,” Walsh said. “It’s a tribute to my team that they have done a great job on her because she was a little bit of a project from the get-go. But we’ve got her turned around and I think she showed that today. It’s great to win this with her because she belongs to a bunch of friends of mine, who bought her last year in France.”
Fergus Galvin scooped her up for €150,000 at Arqana last December, and Family Way now races for his Hunter Valley Farm, Debra O’Connor, and Marc Detampel. The Diamond Creek-bred daughter of Uncle Mo was initially purchased by Godolphin for $775,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. Plying her trade with Henri-Alex Pantall in France, she won twice from six starts, a Bordeaux maiden and a handicap on Deauville’s Polytrack, before touring the sales ring again.
Family Way was runner-up in her Apr. 22 stateside debut at Keeneland, then prevailed in a May 21 Churchill Downs allowance. The gray disappointed as the 2-1 favorite in the July 17 Modesty H. (G3) at Arlington, where she raced prominently only to weaken to seventh. Family Way turned the page with a better third versus males in the Aug. 7 Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup at Ellis Park, and took another step forward here.
“This was going to be our plan at the end of the year,” Walsh said. “It was always on the cards. We thought that the (1 5/16-mile) distance was maybe going to stretch her a little bit, but she seemed like she got it pretty good. She loved the track here today.
“She had been doing really good, and she behaved very well in the paddock today, which gave me an inkling that maybe today was going to be a good day for her. It was a question of whether she was good enough or not. She beat some nice fillies today.”
The 5.60-1 Family Way secured fine position just off the pace set by Blame Debbie through splits of :25.48, :50.36, and 1:14.60 on the firm course. By the time Go Big Blue Nation took over to post a mile in 1:38.78, Family Way had advanced into contention, and she forged ahead in the stretch. Go Big Blue Nation was stubborn on the inside, and new British import La Lune rallied boldly between them, but Family Way kept her neck in front in 2:07.83 and paid $13.20.
“All the credit goes to Brendan and his team,” Gaffalione said. “This filly has been a project from the beginning. He’s done a tremendous job with her.
“Very simple race,” the winning rider added. “She broke well. She tracked the leaders, and coming down the backside hill, I was able to just jump outside and get into the three-path and let my filly find her stride. When I called on her, she finished up well.
“I saved most of the ground to maybe about the half-mile pole and then I figured that I had plenty of horse, just give her a clean path.”
La Lune nosed out Go Big Blue Nation for second in a pleasing U.S. premiere for Ed Vaughan, who indicated that the Oct. 24 Dowager (G3) is her goal. Luck Money, the 2.60-1 favorite, loomed on the outside but settled for fourth. Next came Stand Tall; Micheline, who was too dour to negotiate the traffic effectively; Three Flamingos; Eesha My Flower; Blame Debbie; Naomi Broadway; Joy of Treasure; and Pallas Athene.
“I had some room inside,” Rosario said of Micheline’s voyage, “but then a horse came in on me a little bit. I had to go to another plan and go outside, but I was blocked that way, too. She still was finishing a little bit, and had a little energy left and kept running to the end.”
Family Way enhanced her resume to 11-4-1-2, $437,675, and more significantly, her broodmare value. Her dam, the Giant’s Causeway mare Susie’s Baby, is a half-sister to multiple Group 1-winning highweight and noted freshman sire Caravaggio. Susie’s Baby is also a half to Grade 2 vixen My Jen, a graded stakes producer in Japan. They are all out of stakes victress Mekko Hokte, whom Walsh knows personally.
“She has a great pedigree,” her trainer said. “The pedigree actually goes back to a filly called Mekko Hokte, who Eddie Kenneally trained when I worked for Eddie. It’s the family of Caravaggio. It’s a serious pedigree. It’s huge to win something like this with her.”
Music City S.
Tobys Heart capped a four-win day for Rosario, who padded his haul to a record 17 at the boutique meet. The 1.30-1 favorite relished a return to her one-turn specialty in the $487,950 Music City S. at 6 1/2 furlongs.
Co-owned by Terry Hamilton, trainer Brian Lynch, and Gary Barber, Tobys Heart was content to bide her time as longshot Risky Reward sped through fractions of :21.99 and :44.93. The favorite exploded up the rail to impose her class by 2 3/4 lengths, clocking a swift 1:14.36 while making it look easy.
Alwayz Late closed from even farther back to collar Risky Reward for second. The 30-1 Risky Reward saved third from Saranya, who was motoring from last. Illegal Smile checked in fifth, followed by Navratilova, New Boss, Joy’s Rocket, Pathetique, Running Memories, and the tailed-off Farsighted. Puppymonkeybaby and also-eligible Mischiefful scratched.
Tobys Heart has bankrolled $494,750 from her 8-4-1-1 line, reflecting scores in the 2020 Bolton Landing S. at Saratoga and the Apr. 9 Limestone Turf Sprint at Keeneland. The Jack Milton sophomore had placed in her recent attempts at a mile, the Tepin S. and Lake George (G3).
Bred by Trackside Farms in Kentucky, Tobys Heart is out of the stakes-winning Lil’s Lad mare Pick of the Pack, who is a half-sister to Grade 3 turf sprinter Great Attack. This is the further family of German highweight speedster Sharp Prod.
Rosario engineered the same inside path to glory aboard Koala Princess in the $436,250 Ainsworth S. for two-year-old fillies. The Monmouth debut romper extended her record to a perfect 2-for-2, $324,400.
Trained by Arnaud Delacour, the Runnymede Farm, Peter J. Callahan, and Chris Zinkhan homebred was held up in eighth early. Mystic Eyes was dictating splits of :21.87 and :45.54, with Poppy Flower hovering to challenge, until Koala Princess blew them away by 2 1/4 lengths.
“It’s good to win races; they’re tough to win here,” Delacour said. “Everybody shows up with what they think is their best stock at the time. Whoever will handle the track, that is always a question mark.
“I was very happy with Koala Princess. We were a little worried about the timing. She ran three weeks ago (Aug. 21). We had to ship, but obviously she handled everything fine. We had a great ride by Joel; he didn’t panic. He just sat there and she came with her run, so it was exciting.”
Mystic Eyes fended off Poppy Flower by a half-length, and Hall of Famer John Velazquez thought that the runner-up has more to offer if she can conserve her energy.
“She ran very good. She has a lot to learn,” Velazquez said of Mystic Eyes. “She needs to relax a little bit in the first part. She finished it OK, but the other horse just finished a little bit better than her. But I think the first part of the race made the difference for her.”
There was a 4 1/2-length gap back to Cavalier Cupid in fourth. Lady Danae, the 1.10-1 favorite, wound up fifth. Mollie Kate, Flip My Id, Offaly Fast, J L’s Rockette, Townplace, and below-form European recruit Cheeryupsleepyjean concluded the order of finish. Take the Backroads and also-eligible Splenda Gail were withdrawn.
Koala Princess, who furnished $12 as a 5-1 shot, covered 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.25. The Kentucky-bred is by More Than Ready out of the Lonhro mare Koala Queen, from the immediate family of Grade 1 star Collected. Further back in the female line, one finds Japanese champion Agnes Digital and Blushing Groom.