Maple Leaf Mel stays perfect in Miss Preakness

Friday, May 19th, 2023

Maple Leaf Mel improves to 4-for-4 in Friday’s Grade 3 Miss Preakness at Pimlico. Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club Photo.

By Tom Law

Maple Leaf Mel gave the exact impression bidders are looking for from the moment Bill Parcells’ buying team took their first looks of the Cross Traffic filly prior to last year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May sale of 2-year-olds in training.

“She stood out to me when she came out of the stall,” Jeremiah Englehart, who helped pick out and trains Maple Leaf Mel for Parcells’ August Dawn Farm, said this spring. “She looked good and handled us going over her. She gave a good impression. You feel like you’re standing next to her in the winner’s circle.”

Maple Leaf Mel gave off that winner’s circle impression and hasn’t missed a trip to the coveted space in her four starts, the latest a powerhouse victory over open company in Friday’s Grade 3 Miss Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. Under Joel Rosario, Maple Leaf Mel ripped through the Miss Preakness’ 6 furlongs in 1:09.56 in her 1 1/2-length victory over Topsy. A $150,000 purchase at last year’s Midlantic sale in Timonium, Maryland, Maple Leaf Mel picked up $90,000 for the Miss Preakness win to pad her bankroll to $303,400.

“The way she does it, I always figured she would run with whoever we put her against just because when you ask her to run, she does it,” Englehart said Friday of the filly’s first open-company attempt. “I thought she would handle it, but this was going to be her real, true test to show how she handled it.”

Englehart said Maple Leaf Mel “passed” that test and could head to another graded stakes next – the Grade 3 Victory Ride July 8 at Belmont Park – before a potential Grade 1 attempt in the Test Stakes in early August at Saratoga Race Course.

Maple Leaf Mel, the 8-5 second choice in the field of six, battled in the early stages with 4-5 favorite Key of Life before taking over on the backstretch. She led by a half-length through the opening quarter-mile in :22.26 before shrugging off Key of Life and Afternoon Tea after a half in :45.21.

Rosario gave Maple Leaf Mel her cue in the lane and she opened up, cruising past the eighth pole 3 1/2 lengths in front after 5 furlongs in :56.96.

“She has a lot of speed,” said Rosario, aboard for all of Maple Leaf Mel’s four starts. “Her break was not really super-fast, but she has so much speed. After she got the lead, she looked around a little bit. And I just let her do her thing and hopefully we had something left turning for home.”

Maple Leaf Mel had plenty and won geared down as Topsy made a sustained run past the others to finish a clear second, 3 1/2 lengths clear of L Street Lady. Afternoon Tea, Key of Life and Bound by Destiny completed the field.

Bred by Joe Fafone, foaled at Waldorf Farm in North Chatham and out of the winning City Place mare City Gift, Maple Leaf Mel originally sold for $18,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September yearling sale. She’s the sixth foal out of City Gift, who is also the dam of the stakes-placed eight-time New York-bred winner Eddie’s Gift.

City Gift sold in foal to Brody’s Cause for $4,000 at the 2021 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale. She delivered a colt by that sire in March 2021 in Ontario.

Maple Leaf Mel won both her starts at 2 last summer at Saratoga, taking a 6-furlong maiden then adding the Seeking the Ante Stakes on Saratoga Showcase Day 16 days later. She went to the sidelines with shin issues and didn’t return until the East View Stakes against fellow New York-breds March 24 at Aqueduct. She won that race by 7 3/4 lengths, before returning to Englehart’s wintertime base at Palm Meadows in South Florida to prep for the Miss Preakness.

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