By Bill Heller
Rallying from dead last in the field of 12 under Luis Saez, Kendel Standlee’s idle six-year-old mare The Tea Cups edged idle Invading Humor and Jose Lezcano by a half-length in an exciting 38th running of the one-mile $125,000 Mount Vernon Stakes. Neck of the Moon and Irad Ortiz Jr. finished just a neck behind Invading Humor in third, and Selenite, who was ridden by John Velazquez, finished another 2 ½ lengths back in fourth.
The Tea Cups, who hadn’t raced since Oct. 24th when she was eighth in the $200,000 Ticonderoga Stakes, was 7-1 and Invading Humor, making her first start since finishing seventh in the Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs Nov. 21st, was 9-2. Neck of the Moon was the 9-5 favorite and Selenite 15-1 on the rail.
William Parsons and David Howe bred The Tea Cups, a daughter of Hard Spun out of Lunar Colony by A.P. Indy who is trained by Jeremiah Englehart. Last year, she won the $150,000 Yaddo Stakes at Saratoga.
There was a wild scramble to the early lead, one that was claimed by 21-1 Freudie Anne and Joel Rosario. After a fast first quarter in :22.53, Freudie Ann had a half-length lead on 30-1 Isabelle and Junior Alvarado. There was a four-length gap back to Invading Humor in third.
Freudie Ann shook clear of Isabelle and opened a six-length lead by running a half-mile in :46.75. The Tea Cups was still last. “I knew it was going to be like that because there was a lot of speed and the track is wet,” Saez said. “I was coming from behind because she is a one-run filly, but I knew she was going to take off.”
Freudie Ann’s lead began to shrivel heading for the far turn while The Tea Cups was making a wide rally. Around the turn, The Tea Cups was flying past horses four-wide. “I had a lot of horse and when I came into the stretch,” Saez said. “I asked her and she responded.”
When Freudie Ann tired after three-quarters in 1:11.49, Invading Humor took over, taking a two-length lead on The Tea Cups, who had advanced into second and was gaining. Further back, Neck of the Moon kicked in and was charging hard.
Invading Humor was exceedingly game, but The Tea Cups got past her in the final 100 yards to win in 1:36.40 on the yielding course.
The Tea Cups is now six-for-20 on turf with four seconds and three thirds. She has one third from a pair of dirt starts for total earnings of more than $330,000.