Lightly-raced Ratajkowski strikes in stakes debut to win Empire Distaff

Saturday, October 19th, 2019

NYRA/Susie Raisher

By Sarah Mace

The finale of the stakes portion of 2019 Empire Showcase Day card at Belmont Park Saturday, the Empire Distaff Handicap, attracted a robust field of 11 New York-bred fillies and mares eager to contest a one-turn mile at Belmont Park for a purse of $250,000. The field was eclectic as well as bulky, and the winner, Gary Broad’s Ratajkowski, who just held at the wire for a first career stakes victory, had the most unusual resume of them all.

A 5-year-old daughter of Drosselmeyer trained by Brian Lynch, Ratajkowski did not start for the first time until May 25 of this year, when she finished third in a state-bred maiden special weight at 6 1/2 furlongs. Lynch said Ratajkowski was always highly regarded, but had lots of minor issues that kept her out of the starting gate.

When finally given the opportunity to compete, she rewarded the patience of her connections by doing virtually nothing wrong. Breaking her maiden second out by 3 1/4 lengths in the slop on June 20 at Belmont going six furlongs, she immediately stretched out in distance.

Her next three efforts in state-bred allowance company yielded a close-up second and a win at Saratoga in July and August and, most recently, an eye-popping 10 1/2 length rout going 1 1/16 miles at Belmont on September 11. Right on top of a fast pace from the start, the mare clocked an impressive final time of 1:41.87 for which she was awarded a Beyer Speed Figure of 90.

Sent off as the post time favorite in each of her five prior starts, Ratajkowski was a well-supported 3-2 second choice in the large Empire Distaff field. Jockey Jose Ortiz, aboard for all previous starts, had the return call and the pair was drawn in post 10.

Out of Orbit from post six and Ratajkowski on the outside, both with ample speed, contested the lead in the early stages, with Out of Orbit eventually setting the opening splits of 22.79 and 45.71. Ratajkowski bided her time for a while, but drew back even with the leader through the far turn and took command.

Coglianese Photos

A little erratic in upper stretch Ratajkowski, shook off would-be challenger Newly Minted to her outside but a new threat materialized in the form of 20-1 Our Super Nova who was closing menacingly at rail.

In the end, the wire came just in time for Ratajkowski to hold on by a head, stopping the clock at 1:35.45. Our Super Nova in second finished 4 3/4 lengths ahead of Held Accountable in third, who also closed from well back. Favorite Newly Minted completed the superfecta. [VIDEO REPLAY]

“She’s a nice filly,” Ortiz said. “She had plenty of speed. She broke well and [Out of Orbit] was there and I knew I could go by whenever I wanted to. I just wanted to make sure I knew where my other competitors were. I didn’t want to make an early move either because when she makes the lead, she kind of waits. That’s what happened there.”

As to the harrowing final strides of the race, Ortiz said, “I thought [Newly Minted] was going to keep coming to her and dig in with her and she couldn’t keep up. She lost concentration a little bit in the final sixteenth and she almost got caught on the inside [by Our Super Nova]. She was game enough the last couple of jumps to get the win, so I was happy about that.”

Erin Lynch, assistant Brian Lynch, said, “She’s just been improving with every start. Kudos to Gary Broad [owner] for being so patient with her in waiting until she was five to make her debut. She has paid him back full on. She’s just been phenomenal and been amazing to be around. She does everything right and she just carries the riders around there. She ships very well and has gotten used to it. She’s all business and we’re impressed with the way she got it done here today.”

In a six-race career Ratajkowski has four wins with one second and one third and has earned $286,340.

Bred by John P. Hicks and H & H Farm, Ratajkowski is the first stakes winner for Quiet North, a Kentucky-bred unplaced daughter of Quiet American. Quiet North produced five other winners and delivered her final foal in 2015.


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