by Mary Eddy
Repole Stable's Gambling Girl rallied from off the pace to score her first stakes victory in Friday’s $125,000 Joseph A. Gimma, a seven-furlong main track sprint for state-bred juvenile fillies, at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Gambling Girl made her stakes debut a winning one off of an impressive 10 1/2-length maiden score at third asking going seven furlongs on August 24 at Saratoga Race Course under Irad Ortiz, Jr. With Ortiz, Jr. in the irons again, the daughter of Dialed In gave another strong performance to secure a 1 3/4-length victory in the Gimma.
Away cleanly from post 4 in the field of five, Gambling Girl settled at the back of the compact field as longshot Les Bon Temps took command under Jose Ortiz. Post-time favorite Miracle and a rail-skimming Security Code were on even terms for second as Les Bon Temps marked an opening quarter-mile in 24.11 seconds over the fast main track.
Ortiz, Jr. coaxed Gambling Girl from last as the field approached the turn, taking to the outside path to challenge the frontrunners with Security Code backpedaling along the rail through a half-mile in 48.76. Miracle, racing between foes, was asked for more by Flavien Prat with Les Bon Temps clinging to a precarious lead to the inside and Gambling Girl looming to her outside.
Straightening for the drive to the wire, Gambling Girl took the advantage and improved with each stride, edging clear from Miracle and a stubborn Les Bon Temps at the eighth pole to cross the wire first in a final time of 1:27.62. Miracle secured place honors three-quarter-lengths ahead of Les Bon Temps with Security Code and Lady Mine completing the order of finish. Small Pebbles and Warsaichi were scratched.
Byron Hughes, Pletcher’s Belmont-based assistant, said he was pleased with the effort.
“Irad let her settle and she made a good run around the turn,” Hughes said. “She seemed to be finishing up well and she galloped out well, too. She showed talent in the mornings and she really put it together in her last start at Saratoga and followed up with a good effort today against a talented filly in Flavien's filly.”
The Joseph A. Gimma was Gambling Girl’s second time racing at seven furlongs after running five and six furlongs in her first two starts, respectively.
Ortiz, Jr. said seven furlongs is the perfect distance for the bay filly.
“She’s nice. Last time, going seven-eighths was much better for her,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “She’s one of those kinds of horses that you really have to ride and six was too short. Going seven-eighths last time, she won by 10 [1/2] lengths. It was a big step up last time going seven-eighths, so I was pretty confident in her today. She handled the distance already and I knew she could handle it.”
Ortiz, Jr. said he was confident when making his early move at the leader.
"I wasn’t afraid to put her close and she put me in a good place,” said Ortiz, Jr, who piloted Pletcher-trained Classy Edition to victory in last year’s Gimma. “I went from there and jumped on them a little earlier than usual and still had some horse in the end. Today, it was a small field, so I was able to get her in the clear early.
“I took her out [in the stretch]. The other filly [Miracle] is nice, too,” Ortiz, Jr. added. “I tried to stay away from her and I still had some horse. I knew she was going to give me something, so I just wanted to stay outside in the middle of the track. As soon as I asked, she responded really well and kept going forward."
Out of the Empire Maker mare Tulipmania and bred in the Empire State by Gallagher’s Stud, Gambling Girl returned $8.50 for a $2 win wager and banked $68,750 in victory, improving her record to 4-2-0-1. She was a $200,000 purchase from the Denali Stud consignment at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Preferred New York-Bred Yearling Sale.
Prat said he was pleased with the runner-up finish from Miracle, who entered from a third-place effort in the Seeking the Ante over a sloppy and sealed Saratoga main track.
“She broke well. I got her in a good spot and she ran her race,” said Prat. “Last time, it was sloppy and she didn’t handle the track that day. She’s usually a pretty quick filly.”
Live racing resumes Saturday at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet with an 11-race card, featuring the Grade 3, $175,000 Athenia in Race 3 and the $125,000 Ashley T. Cole in Race 10. First post is 1:00 p.m. Eastern.
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