Coffee Clique brews up stirring renewal of Longines Just a Game
By NYRA Press Office | 06/07/2014 08:45 PM ET
Coffee Clique charged up from midpack and held off a determined late run from Strathnaver to win the Grade 1, $750,000 Longines Just a Game by a nose on Saturday at Belmont Park.
With Javier Castellano aboard, Coffee Clique was content to run along in fourth as Somali Lemonade led the field of nine fillies and mares through fractions of 23.44, 46.89 and 1:10.29 over a firm turf course. Tipped out on the turn, Coffee Clique charged five-wide into the lane to pass the front-runners and outkick Strathnaver through the final yards.
Her winning time for the mile was 1:32.52.
"I had a beautiful trip; it set up perfectly," said Castellano. "I had a perfect spot in the race, exactly what I was looking for. Three horses went out for the lead and I was covered up all the way in the race. When my filly took off, she came with a big run."
It was the third victory in as many starts this year for Coffee Clique, who took an optional claimer in March at Gulfstream Park and then won the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile on May 3 at Churchill Downs.
"A Grade 1 absolutely is the pinnacle for her" said Brian Lynch, who trains the 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro filly for Ammerman Racing. "She's a homebred, which makes that family so valuable, and she's just such a courageous filly. Just thrilled to see her dog it out like she did.
"It's a world title match to be here today, to compete against this competition," he added. "But as I've always said, winning form is good form. She had won two in a row, she fit here today, and she ran like she belonged. God bless her."
Sent off at 9-2, Coffee Clique returned $11.60 for a $2 win bet. The victory was worth $400,000 and nearly doubled her earnings to $817,488.
Runner-up Strathnaver, who suffered her third straight narrow defeat, was 1 ¼ lengths in front of Somali Lemonade, with favored Discreet Marq checking in fourth.
"She ran brilliantly," said Mike Smith, aboard Strathnaver. "I want to see the photo. I'm really disappointed, I thought I got there, but evidently I didn't. She ran a tremendous race, I rode her just like Graham [Motion] told me to, sit and give her one short run. I'm just dumbfounded."
Completing the order of finish were Stephanie's Kitten, Waterway Run, Ready Signal, Better Lucky, and Unlimited Budget.