Fifty Five posts confident victory in John Hettinger Stakes

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

By Sarah Mace

After just missing wins in the first two races of this year’s NYRA stakes series for New York-bred turf fillies and mares, Fifty Five gave the field of the $125,000, 1 1/8-mile John Hettinger Stakes a tutorial at Belmont Park on Sunday scoring a decisive victory from off the pace piloted by a supremely confident Javier Castellano.

A graded stakes-winning 4-year-old daughter of Get Stormy, Fifty Five has been remarkably consistent throughout her career, finishing in the money in 13 of 14 prior starts. Winner of the Grade 2 Florida Oaks and Ticonderoga Stakes for state-breds at three, Fifty Five came into the Hettinger with four starts under her belt in 2018. She put in a characteristically strong effort each time, but only managed to get her picture taken once.

Second by one length in Aqueduct’s open Plenty of Grace Stakes in April to Uni, winner of Saturday’s Grade 3 Noble Damsel at Belmont, Fifty Five fell a neck short in the Mount Vernon to Feeling Bossy, who was also in the Hettinger field. Fifty Five then won an open allowance at Belmont on July 15, but at Saratoga on August 24 had to settle for neck-loss, when she finished third in a blanket finish in the Yaddo stakes, beaten by the talented La Moneda and Lady Joan. The speedy Lady Joan was drawn at the rail for the Hettinger.

Unhurried after breaking from post seven, Fifty Five tracked in sixth, five lengths off the pace through the first turn and up the backstretch. Up front Lady Joan battled for the lead from her rail post with Conquest Hardcandy who crossed over from the outside post and was, no doubt, unwelcome company. The early splits were slow over the “good” inner turf: 24.59 and 49.96.

Gearing up to make a sweeping move in the far turn, Fifty Five passed rivals, spun six-wide into the stretch and did what she does best – unleashed her patented (and devastating) late kick. Blowing past rivals with apparent ease and gaining the front with a furlong to go, Fifty Five was able to call it “mission accomplished” with a 2-length victory at the wire.

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

After six furlongs in 1:14.09 and a mile in 1:37.24, the final time for the 9-furlong Hettinger, after Fifty Five’s final panel in 11.74, was 1:48.98. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Javier Castellano was ebullient (“What a horse! She’s special!”) and spelled out why he seemed so confident in the irons.

“I believed that [Fifty Five] was the best horse in the race,” Castellano said. “I didn’t have the best post and I didn’t have the best trip, to be honest, but I rode her like she was the best horse in there. I took my time with her, tried to be patient, and, turning for home, I got the jump on everybody. I wanted to move outside and kick clear and that’s exactly what she did.”

Addressing the challenge of the show early splits, Castellano said, “There was a lot of speed in the race, but they were walking too. There were four horses [with speed], so I knew I was going to be mid-pack, that’s her style, but I didn’t expect them to be walking like they did. I even lost some ground at one point. She was very impressive, finishing the way she did today.”

Trainer Chad Brown also commented on the race dynamics. “It was a bit of a tough trip. She was really much the best today. I was really impressed with her race. She just had a wide trip off a slow pace. I was quite concerned. I figured she was going to have to be much the best today watching the race unfold, and she certainly was.”

Continued Brown, “I’m extremely impressed with her effort. Probably the worst trip you can have in a turf race, wide with no pace through no fault of Javier, and for her to still prevail, it was a monumental effort.”

Brown plans to start Fifty Five once more this year in state-bred company, and, perhaps return to open company next year.

Bred by John and Sandy Crowe’s Empire Equines and foaled at Berkshire Stud in Pine Plains, Fifty Five is one of two winners out of Empire’s homebred mare Soave. Soave was by Brahms out of New York-bred Cozzene mare Cozzekiki.

Fifty Five RNA’d for $24,000 at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sales only to emerge as Get Stormy’s first stakes winner when she won the Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs. Brant purchased the filly privately from Empire Equines’ John Crowe after the Florida Oaks coup. She now sports a record of six wins, three seconds and five thirds from 15 starts with $545,788 in earnings.


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