June 19, 2024

Deep-closing Neecie Marie snatches Beaugay

Neecie Marie wins the Beaugay at Aqueduct (Photo by Coglianese Photography / Credit to Chelsea Durand)

Saturday’s stakes action at Aqueduct got off to a surprising start, as the 7.90-1 Neecie Marie closed furiously to upset odds-on Whitebeam in the $169,750 Beaugay (G3).

Whitebeam, the 0.55-1 favorite, expended energy forcing the early pace set by Spirit and Glory. They pulled as many as eight lengths clear of the rest in their speed battle. Meanwhile, throughout their prolonged tussle, Neecie Marie was unhurried far back in last. So patient was jockey Joel Rosario that he didn’t even ask her until the stretch, and the Butch Reid trainee exploded to get up in time by a neck.

The condition of the turf course, labeled good after recent rain, was a factor likely compounding the effect of the pace exertions. Moreover, Whitebeam had not raced since her fourth in the Dec. 3 Matriarch (G1), where she also overdid it early and paid the price.

Although Spirit and Glory negotiated the Beaugay’s opening quarter in :24.09, neither of them had the chance to switch off or relax. Whitebeam tried to ease off slightly by the half in :47.87, but she was re-engaging through six furlongs in 1:11.62. Spirit and Glory continued to hang on grimly in the stretch, until Whitebeam gradually began to wear her down.

By that point, Neecie Marie was rapidly erasing the deficit. Still seven lengths back in midstretch, and literally out of the picture, the Cross Traffic filly hit top gear out wide and caught the longtime leaders. Neecie Marie completed 1 1/16 miles on the outer course in 1:42.90 to earn her first graded victory, returning $17.80.

“I was very comfortable,” Rosario said of his trip. “She doesn’t have a lot of early speed, and for a mile and a sixteenth, I thought maybe it would be a little short for her, but she was grinding it out and she kept coming. She finished really well for me. 

“If you asked me if I thought we were going to win the race turning for home – maybe not – but it looked like she was getting to them and the further we go, the more she was getting to them. It was perfect.”

“I was a little concerned,” Reid said of Neecie Marie’s remote position, “but I could see the jock wasn’t concerned – he was still taking a hold going down the backside, so he must have felt he had something under him.

“It looked like a daunting task turning for home, but this is a nice filly and I think a bigger, stronger filly than last year, too. We’re looking for big things from her.”

Whitebeam, who was trying to give trainer Chad Brown a seventh Beaugay win, headed Spirit and Glory for runner-up honors. Another 2 1/4 lengths back in fourth came Quarrel. Aspray, Whitebeam’s stablemate from the Brown barn, trailed after a bobbling start. The main-track-only trio of Movie Moxy, Bustin Bay, and Ocean Getaway stayed in the barn.

Brown was able to accentuate the positive with Whitebeam, but Aspray’s non-effort left him nonplussed.

“Given the ground – we’ve had rain and it’s a bit soft – those were probably pretty strong fractions,” Brown said, “so she (Whitebeam) probably felt it the last 70 yards or so there. We’ll have to hope she got a lot out of it. It was a good effort; she just got tired late.

“I don’t know why Aspray didn’t fire. She was training great and really has no excuse for the ground – she’s handled it before. She was really flat. She was working great, so we’ll have to regroup with her.”

Michael Milam’s Neecie Marie improved her record to 10-5-2-0, $361,950. The bay scored her prior stakes win in the Mrs. Penny S. for Pennsylvania-breds, but she had gone close twice at Aqueduct last fall. Just a neck shy of Charlie Appleby shipper Eternal Hope in the 1 3/8-mile Jockey Club Oaks (G3), Neecie Marie missed by a half-length to the same Godolphin filly in the 1 1/8-mile Sands Point (G2). Her subsequent outing, a fifth in the Mrs. Revere (G3), is a toss-out since it was transferred to the main track at Churchill Downs.

As that summary indicates, a step up in trip is in the cards for Neecie Marie. 

“We’ll see how she bounces out of this one,” Reid said. “This was obviously a little under her best distance, but it was what we were looking for off the layoff, and I think she’ll be better on down the road.”

Neecie Marie is a “niece” of 2022 Kentucky Derby (G1) shocker Rich Strike. She is out of the Posse mare Lode Lady, a half-sister to Rich Strike. Their dam, Canadian champion Gold Strike, is also responsible for Grade 2 scorer Llanarmon.

Bred by Jon Marshall in the Keystone State, Neecie Marie was purchased for $25,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Fall yearling.