At odds of 17-1, Grade 1 winning mare OLEKSANDRA overcame a poor break and rallied from more than 13 lengths back to capture the $250K Poker Stakes (G3) Sunday at Belmont Park.
Jockey Joel Rosario brought her to the winner circle for her first time since last summer for owners Team Valor International LLC.
OLEKSANDRA was bumped at the start and forced to check, finding herself trailing the pack early on, while the leaders sped to a thirteen length advantage. The field went 22.52 and 44.60 for the opening quarters, led by GET SMOKIN, with the pair of longshots TELL YOUR DADDY and RAASED pressing the issue.
"She ran a tremendous race, she really relaxed in the beginning, the pace was fast, but she was really there for me," jockey Joel Rosario said. "That was very impressive. When I started picking up after the three-furlong [pole] and then she got the momentum with that stride that she has I said ‘let me try going out a little bit.' I don't want to get stopped here." (David Grening, DRF)
Approaching the turn, the back horses have closed the gap, with 3-5 favorite RAGING BULL boxed along the rail. Meanwhile OLEKSANDRA is picking off horses one by one while still in hand, then taking command in the stretch.
"He gave her a peach of a ride," trainer Neil Drysdale said. "He waited and he pressed the button at the right time. Another thing that I thought might help is the Widener course has just a little bit longer stretch."
RAGING BULL found an opening along the rail and shot through, but OLEKSANDRA had the jump and the momentum; Rosario urged her to the task, never going to the whip, and keeping RAGING BULL at bay to win by a head. FRONT RUN THE FRED fought on for third. The final time for the one mile on turf was 1:32.11.
OLEKSANDRA paid $38.80 to win, $7.30 to place, and $5.40 to show. She is by ANIMAL KINGDOM out of ALEXANDRA ROSE by CAESOUR. She earns her third graded stakes victory and pushes her earnings to $705,748.
Did you know the name "OLEKSANDRA" is derived from the Ancient Greek, given to the Greek Goddess, Hera, taken to mean: "one who comes to save warriors" and "protector of man"?
It's a bit of sweet irony as she did the exact opposite — doing away with her male rivals and handing them their defeat!
This was also Oleksandra's final start of her career. She was racing while in foal to INTO MISCHIEF, yet comes out victorious and closes her legacy on a much-deserved winning note.
Neil Drydstale continued: "Things haven't gone exactly smooth this year for her. We ran in Kentucky and realized she doesn't like the soft going. So, then we decided not to run here [in the Jaipur] because it was raining a lot here too at the time. Since she's more relaxed this year, we decided to try her at a mile hoping she could get the distance, and she did. She's pregnant [in foal to Into Mischief], so this was her swan song. She'll go out on a high note." (Jennifer Kelly, Paulick Report)
Source: Equibase, David Grening, DRF, Jennifer Kelly, Paulick Report, Name-Doctor