By Sarah Mace
Friday afternoon’s 146th running of the $100,000 Ladies Handicap for older fillies and mares at Aqueduct Racetrack belonged entirely to Wonder Gal, who broke fastest and only improved from there. The 5-year-old daughter of Tiz Wonderful sailed home comfortably, a no-contest winner by double-digit lengths.
The one-mile, 70-yard race was rescheduled for Friday from last Saturday, when snow forced NYRA to cancel the Big A card. The same five horses showed up, but were shuffled around by the draw, and Wonder Gal, who has ample early foot, had the good fortune to move from post four right to the rail to run on a track that in recent days has favored inside speed.
The strapping dark bay mare, highweighted at 118 pounds and favored to win at odds of 3-2, broke on top after the bell. Charging confidently around the first turn, she opened up a length on her competition, then improved her advantage to two lengths on the backstretch.
At one point Always On My Mind tried to reel Wonder Gal in, but got no closer to her rival than three-quarters of a length. Wonder Gal spurted away in the far turn.
From this point on, it was all over but the shouting, as Wonder Gal opened up her lead to five lengths by the quarter pole, then 10 lengths and more in the stretch, finally crossing the wire all alone, a 13 1/2-length winner.
Chorus Line at 12-1 outfinished the other relative longshot in the field, New York-bred Jet Majesty, also 12-1, for the place. Rounding out the order of finish were Highway Star and Always on My Mind. After a half-mile in 47.73 and a mile in 1:38.04, the final time for the race was 1:42.45. [REPLAY]
“I wanted to get to the front. I had the one-hole, and the best thing is to see if you can get position and see if everyone is scattering behind you,” said jockey Kendrick Carmouche, who was also aboard Wonder Gal for her two prior starts.
Carmouche continued, “Once I got to the half-mile and I heard the guys scramble back there, I just opened up. I said it was going to be a do-or-die situation. It worked out today. I just want to say congratulations to [trainer] Leah Gyarmati and her team.
Carmouche especially enjoyed being able to give Gyarmati, whose most recent win had come on October 9, a lift with the victory. “It’s tough when trainers go through a drought without winning and you really just want to pull that one through to make their situation better,” said Carmouche. “I’m just grateful for the chance to ride the horse. They canceled last week. Everything works out for a reason. They gave me the mount back and I made it successful.”
Wonder Gal has had a fairly demanding campaign since she came off the bench on September 2 to romp in a 6 1/2-furlong state-bred sprint allowance at Saratoga. In October she finished fifth after an outside trip in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom, in November finished mid-pack after getting mixed up with some traffic in the Grade 1 Breeder’s Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, and then rebounded in December with a strong third-place finish in the Grade 3 Go For Wand Handicap, only a neck behind winner Highway Star. Campaigned up to that point by Treadway Racing Stable, Wonder Gal raced Friday in the colors of new owner Clearview Stable LLC, who purchased her privately.
Gyarmati said, “Obviously, her performance today was spectacular. She seemed like she did it so easily. She ran that big race up at Saratoga [on September 2] and she was training so well heading into that race. It kind of set her back a little bit, but going into this race she started having those same works as she did back then. I’m just so thankful for this performance.”
Wonder Gal was purchased by Jeffrey Treadway at the OBS March Sale of 2-year-olds for $210,000 after a :10 1/5 breeze. She was the top-selling New York-bred filly, and fourth highest-priced New York-bred juvenile overall at that auction.
The Ladies Handicap is Wonder Gal’s third stakes victory and first in open company, having previously won the Empire Distaff and Lynbrook Stakes. She has placed in eight additional stakes, including runner-up finishes in the Grade 1 Frizette and Grade 1 Mother Goose. She also ran third in the 2014 Grade 1 Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Fillies and Grade 1 Acorn Stakes. Overall, from four wins, two seconds and six thirds in 17 starts she has earned $887,145.
Bred by Apache Farm LLC and foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia, Wonder Gal is out of Passe, an unraced Kentucky-bred daughter of Dixie Union. Out of stakes winner and graded stakes performer Gal on the Go (Irgun), Passe is a half-sister to Social Queen, a multiple graded winner by Dynaformer ($344,164). The mare has a 2-year-old filly by Jimmy Creed and a yearling colt by Tiznow. She was bred in 2016 to Palace Malice.