Two turf distaffers answered key questions on Sunday: Lexie Lou, the 2014 Canadian Horse of the Year, proved that she’s not done yet by snapping a losing streak in Woodbine’s $177,184 Nassau (G2), and Isabella Sings proved that she’s not a need-the-lead type after all in the $82,000 Miss Liberty at Monmouth. There was another point of commonality: both have been beaten by Royal Ascot-bound champion Tepin this season.
Gary Barber’s Lexie Lou compiled a glittering record in 2014, beating the boys in the Queen’s Plate, winning two fillies’ classics in the Woodbine Oaks and Wonder Where, adding the Autumn Miss (G3) at Santa Anita, and finishing second to U.S. Horse of the Year California Chrome in the Hollywood Derby (G1).
Since then, though, Lexie Lou hit a rough patch. Sidelined for a year after her runner-up effort in the 2015 La Canada (G2) in her only dirt attempt, the daughter of Sligo Bay was understandably rusty when third in her Tampa Bay allowance comeback. But instead of building on that, Lexie Lou wound up sixth to stablemate Tepin in the February 13 Endeavour (G3) and a more concerning third in her return to Woodbine April 30.
I’ve got to admit that I thought Lexie Lou’s best days were behind her, and so did others, since she was overlooked at 12-1 in the Nassau. Yet that was underestimating trainer Mark Casse’s powers of rejuvenation.
Under Patrick Husbands, Lexie Lou sat third early while Moon Rainbow set fractions of :23.07 and :45.26. Another Casse runner, Mississippi Delta, tracked in second before sweeping to the fore. For much of the homestretch, Mississippi Delta appeared poised to spearhead the Casse exacta. Then Lexie Lou surged in the final yards to get up by three-quarters of a length, reeling off the mile in a quick 1:32.98 on a firm course.
“She’s a funny filly,” Husbands said. “You’ve got to play with her mind. You’ve got to let her do what she wants to do. Last time when I rode her, nobody wanted the lead, and she took the lead and quit. She’s happy to be back home. She’s a nice filly. She’s a little champion.”
Former Canadian champion Strut the Course, as many as 10 lengths back early, finished with a flourish to miss second by only a neck. Another neck away in fourth came Moon Rainbow. The 7-5 favorite, Stormy Victoria, worked her way into fifth after a slow start.
Lexie Lou has now bankrolled $1,594,491 from her 21-8-4-4 line.
A few minutes later at Monmouth, even-money favorite Isabella Sings showed a new tactical ability by rallying from just off the pace. The Todd Pletcher trainee had previously done her best work when controlling the tempo – i.e., her victories in last year’s Mrs. Revere (G2) at Churchill Downs and in the Little Silver over this course, her near-miss here in the Boiling Springs (G3), and especially her heroic second to champion Tepin in the March 12 Hillsborough (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs.
But when My Sweet Girl scampered early to set a contested pace through splits of :22.71 and :45.43, Isabella Sings was content to amble over into a stalking spot on the inside. For anyone else, you’d have been confident about her trip. But for a filly of her front-running profile, there was a question of how well she’d handle the set-up.
Isabella Sings capitalized all right. Angled out to accost the longtime leader turning into the stretch, the Eskendereya filly stretched 1 1/2 lengths clear. Her final time for the firm-turf mile was a brisk 1:33.61, just off the course mark of 1:33.33 held by Change of Command since 2013.
“When she broke, I let her decide if she wanted to go to the front,” said Paco Lopez, who gets on very well with Isabella Sings. “We got in a good spot right behind the lead. She sat comfortably on the backstretch. I had to check once on the turn, but she was good once we got to the outside and she had a good amount left at the end.”
The 8-1 Seeking Treasure and the 16-1 Miss Atomic Bomb, the last two through the opening half-mile, closed for second and third respectively. My Sweet Girl tired to fourth, while Cali Thirty Seven, who flashed speed early, retreated to a subpar ninth.
A Siena Farm homebred, Isabella Sings improved her record to 14-5-4-0, $391,950. As a juvenile, she was just denied after stalking and pouncing in the Natalma (G2). That had been a while ago, however, so it was good to see her use that tactic successfully. With greater flexibility in her repertoire, Isabella Sings can continue to beef up her resume at a higher level.
Top photo of Lexie Lou courtesy of WEG/Michael Burns Photography.
Isabella Sings photo courtesy of Bill Denver/Equi-Photo.