Off the Tracks proves best in Mother Goose
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the bay daughter of Curlin led gate to wire while enduring early pressure from Mom’s On Strike through splits of :22.79, :45.53 and 1:09.62. That rival began fading entering the turn but Off the Tracks kept right on motoring to retain control into the stretch.
Lewis Bay steadily made her way forward after tracking in third and challenged Off the Tracks, but the pacesetter hit another gear and drew off to stop the clock in 1:41.01 for 1 1/16 miles over the fast main track.
Sent off the 3-1 third choice, Off the Tracks paid $8.10 for scoring her first win under Pletcher’s tutelage. Lewis Bay had a length to spare on third-placer Lightstream, who suffered her first loss in this spot while stretching out past seven furlongs.
Mo d’Amour held fourth by a neck over 9-5 favorite Rachel’s Valentina. Mom’s On Strike and Linda Mimi completed the order of finish.
Off the Tracks romped in her initial three starts while running for trainer Roderick Rodriquez, including wins in the Schuylerville Stakes (G3) at Saratoga to close out her juvenile campaign and Margate Handicap at Gulfstream Park to open 2016.
The bay miss was subsequently transferred to Pletcher, for whom she placed third in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and second in the Acorn Stakes (G1). With this return to the winner’s circle the filly improved her mark to 6-4-1-1 and has now banked $485,594.
Bred in Kentucky by Lee McMillin, Off the Tracks brought $50,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. She’s out of the winning Boston Harbor mare Harve de Grace, making her a half-sister to Grade 2 hero Concord Point and a full sibling to stakes-placed Inspired by Grace.
The trio’s dam is herself a half-sister to dual Grade 3 winner Tasha’s Miracle, Grade 2-placed Deb’s Charm and stakes third Early Vintage.
Off the Tracks’ third dam is Grade 2 queen A Penny Is a Penny.
One race earlier, My Sweet Girl stuck her neck in front on the wire to pull off a 14-1 upset in the $100,000 Perfect Sting Stakes with Manuel Franco aboard.
The Barclay Tagg-trained four-year-old rallied from the rear of the six distaffer field to edge Neck of the Moon in a final time of 1:35.75 for a mile on the yielding turf.
Onus, the 3-5 favorite off a 5 1/2-length wire job to open her four-year-year-old campaign on May 21, finished third another three parts of a length back in third.
My Sweet Girl earned her first stakes credit in this spot and now boasts a 16-4-1-1, $239,780, career record. The Bernardini filly is out of the Grade 1-scoring Distorted Humor mare Bit of Whimsy, making her a half-sister to Grade 2 heroine Caroline Thomas.
Off the Tracks photos courtesy of (1st) NYRA/Chelsea Durand/Adam Coglianese Photography and (2nd) NYRA/Joe Labozzetta/Adam Coglianese Photography
MOTHER GOOSE QUOTES
Todd Pletcher, trainer Off the Tracks (winner) and Rachel's Valentina (fifth): "(We're) just trying to figure out how we thought the race would unfold. We weren't positive what a couple horses would do but we felt that if (Off the Tracks) got a clean break there was a decent chance that she would be on the lead, so that was plan A with her. Even though the fractions were very fast, the track seems to be playing pretty fast today, so I was a little concerned going as fast as they were, but she seemed to be doing it comfortably and in good rhythm. I was happy to see her have something left to finish.
"I really don't have a great explanation (for Rachel's Valentina). It looked like she was in a decent spot, but Johnny seemed like he had to start asking her for a lot earlier than you would expect him to. We'll see how she comes out of it and try to regroup."
Jose Ortiz, jockey Off the Tracks, winner: "She broke good and was very alert. We went a bit fast but she wasn't pushed all the way to do that. She was relaxed and did it by herself.
"She was in a good rhythm. As we passed the three-eighths pole, she gave me a lot of confidence to go on. She responded very well."
John Velazquez, jockey Rachel's Valentina, fifth: "We thought the race set up perfect with speed in front of us. It just didn't happen. The speed was in the lead and kept running, so there aren't any excuses for the horses from behind.
"She wasn't trying for whatever reason. Everything felt well. She didn't want to do it, I guess. It's strange."
Chad Brown, trainer Lewis Bay, second: "It's disappointing. She was sitting there loaded the whole way, I thought when she tipped out she'd go right by that horse and she just ran even down the lane. She got a good trip, and she looked like a winner every step of the way until she just flattened out in the middle of the stretch.”
Irad Ortiz Jr., jockey Lewis Bay, second: "I got a perfect trip. She's a nice filly. I'm just really disappointed today."
PERFECT STING QUOTES
Barclay Tagg, trainer My Sweet Girl, winner: "I was little concerned (about the break). I wanted her covered up a little bit, but I didn't particularly want her way back there. I thought the track's been too fast for her to come back. I was afraid when I saw her way back there that she might not be able to get up, because the speed's not going to come back, but it all worked out. The kid rode her beautifully and I was very happy with it.
"I've always like the filly. She's got a lot of talent. We just had to find what suited her the best. We've tried her long distance, short distance, dirt, turf, mud, everything. She's always showed a lot of talent and this just worked out perfectly today."
Manuel Franco, jockey My Sweet Girl, winner: "She ran great. I love the way she runs. She's real responsive.
"I was just following instructions. The trainer told me to be patient with her and that's what I did. She gave me a good move and when I was asking, she was there for me."