Action-packed stretch runs unfolded in both of Saturday’s $100,000 turf stakes for sophomores at Gulfstream Park. While Priced to Perfection extricated herself in the nick of time in the Sweetest Chant (G3), the 19-1 shot J R’s Holiday avoided a midtrack scrum when driving up the inside in the Kitten’s Joy.

Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s Priced to Perfection, a strong second in the January 2 Ginger Brew, had to show multiple gears to prevail in the Sweetest Chant. In the process, she went a couple of places better than full sister Miss Temple City, who was third in the 2015 Sweetest Chant. Miss Temple City’s commendable campaign ended with a troubled near-miss in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland, and her younger sister has a bright future herself.

Priced to Perfection was buried in midpack through splits of :23.78 and :48.63, but Joel Rosario coaxed her into a much better spot in fourth. No sooner had the Chad Brown filly secured that good position, than she had to steady off heels and got buffeted on the far turn.

As the forwardly placed Born to Be Winner took command entering the stretch, Priced to Perfection tried to slip through to her inside. No room there, so Rosario had to yank her back out, where she seized the seam. Priced to Perfection accelerated on cue to get up by three-quarters of a length over the closing Spinamiss, with Born to Be Winner a neck astern in third. After clocking the mile in 1:36.98 on good turf, Priced to Perfection paid $11.40 to win at 9-2.

Sapphire Kitten, the 2-1 favorite, had her own tale of woe. Bottled up throughout on the inside, she was tightened up briefly when Priced to Perfection was casting about for room. Sapphire Kitten never saw proper daylight, yet still finished willingly in the pocket for a close fourth (spot her with the white bridle and “R” on the red cap). With a halfway decent passage, she would have been right there.

 

Priced to Perfection’s first stakes victory improved her scorecard to 5-2-1-1, $129,960, compiled exclusively on turf. She was third on debut at Saratoga to subsequent Miss Grillo (G3) winner Tin Type Gal, then promptly broke her maiden at Belmont Park. Priced to Perfection might have found the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) a case of too much, too soon, for she turned in her lone poor effort in ninth. She kicked off her 3-year-old campaign in the Ginger Brew, where a slow start and wide trip off a tepid moderate pace didn’t help, and she was beaten only a half-length.

Out of the stakes-placed Artax mare Glittering Tax, Priced to Perfection sold twice at OBS. Bringing only $35,000 as a newly turned yearling in January 2014, she commanded $230,000 as a 2-year-old in training at OBS April.

Earlier in the Kitten’s Joy, J R ‘s Holiday was overlooked as the longest shot on the board, but upstaged a quartet of Triple Crown nominees led by 7-5 favorite Conquest Daddyo.

Trained by Jose Garoffalo for J.R. Racing, J R ’s Holiday has been a model of consistency since switching to turf. That profile fits his pedigree, especially his maternal line. The Harlan’s Holiday colt is out of an Empire Maker half-sister to multiple Grade 1-winning millionaires Cetewayo and Dynaforce. Others in this black-type rich family are Willcox Inn and the ill-fated Innovation Economy.

A closing third in the October 3 Armed Forces at this course and distance, off a maiden romp here, J R’ s Holiday was most recently victorious in a December 13 entry-level allowance. He got into the Kitten’s Joy as the 114-pound lightweight with Emisael Jaramillo, who again rode him patiently.

As J R ’s Holiday bided his time in last, Don’t Be So Salty scampered to the lead through an opening quarter in :23.49. Little Mo went forward to engage the leader and put his head in front at the half-mile mark in :47.96.

At about the same time, Life Imitates Art had made an early move into a prompting third for Rosario. But seeing Little Mo serve it up to Don’t Be So Salty, Rosario then took another hold of Life Imitates Art and eased him back into fourth again. In light of Life Imitates Art’s learning curve, that might have confused him a little bit because he didn’t rally and wound up fifth.

Don’t Be So Salty regained a narrow advantage from Little Mo, who proved a persistent foe down the stretch, even after the leader drifted out and bumped him. Azar was closing into contention wider out and was slightly inconvenienced in the messiness.

Meanwhile J R ’s Holiday had a giant gap presented to him on the inside. Picking up strongly, he rolled past the scrimmaging to his outside and won going away by three-quarters of a length. The dark bay covered the grassy mile in 1:35.20 and fueled a $40.80 win mutuel.

The stewards took note of the stretch incident and disqualified Don’t Be So Salty from second to fourth. Azar was elevated to the runner-up spot, and Little Mo, who took the worst of it in fourth across the line, was handed third.

Life Imitates Art was hung wide, but his body language didn’t telegraph that he was really leveling off in any case. Conquest Daddyo was never in a serious position to challenge after breaking slowly, and he lost ground over the second half of the race when beaten a little over six lengths in last.

J R ’s Holiday sports a mark of 8-3-1-1, $132,875. His only unplaced efforts came in his first three tries on dirt. Even allowing for his good trip and advantage at the weights on Saturday, he has every reason to develop into a smart turf performer.

Photos courtesy Coglianese Photography; credit Kenny Martin for top photo of Priced to Perfection.