Merry Meadow springs upset in G3 Vagrancy
By Sean Morris | 05/17/2014 07:15 PM ET
Sent off as the distant 6-1 third choice in a four-horse field, Merry Meadow surprised the bettors and her trainer by taking the Grade 3, $150,000 Vagrancy on Saturday at Belmont Park with a perfect trip under jockey Rajiv Maragh.
Merry Meadow, trained by Mark Hennig for William Parsons, Jr. and David Howe, nearly didn't start in the Vagrancy at all.
"We entered her [at Pimlico]," said Hennig, "but we kind of wanted to run here all along because 6 ½ furlongs is better for her. If [the Vagrancy] had been a bigger field we might have gone down there, but once we saw the weather, we decided to take a shot and pick up some graded black-type. We were just hoping she'd hit the board."
The 4-year-old daughter of Henny Hughes did much more than hit the board on Saturday. After breaking well, Merry Meadow was able to take up position in the garden spot along the rail, tracking a quick pace set by Jane of All Trades of 22.13 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 45.06 for a half. Turning for home, Maragh tipped the bay filly into the two path and his mount did the rest, storming by the pacesetter en route to a 3 ¾-length victory.
"My filly was so willing today," said Maragh. "She was really sharp and put me in a very comfortable spot. We saved ground from the inside, and she finished strong when I tipped her outside."
The spacing of her races may have had a hand in the filly's breakthrough performance, according to her trainer.
"She's always run well fresh," said Hennig. "We ran her back kind of quickly in the Barbara Fritchie last time, so I wanted to give her plenty of time after that. She always responds well [to time off]; she's an honest, honest horse."
Merry Meadow's Vagrancy win boosted her bankroll to $428,600 and she returned $14 for a $2 win bet. The Hennig trainee stopped the clock in 1:17.36 for the 6 ½ furlongs.
Jane of All Trades held on to be second after carving out the early fractions, while it was another 5 ¼ lengths back to Five Star Momma in third.
Kauai Katie, sent off as the heavy 2-5 favorite, failed to recapture her 3-year-old form and finished a distant fourth for trainer Todd Pletcher.
"She got squeezed back at the start and never really fired," said Pletcher.