by Brian Bohl
Morticia gained the lead in the stretch and held off a late-charging Lull in the final jumps to win the fourth running of the $100,000 Soaring Softly for 3-year-old fillies in a head-bobbing finish on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Owned by G. Watts Humphrey, Jr., Morticia won for the third time in her last four starts, including her second stakes, completing seven furlongs on the Widener turf course in 1:19.93. She now has three wins and a runner-up finish in four starts on grass for trainer Rusty Arnold since coming in sixth off the turf in her debut.
Jockey Jose Lezcano kept Morticia in the two path as pacesetter Team of Teams went an opening quarter-mile in 22.33 seconds and the half in 45.16. Out of the turn, Lezcano set his charge down three-wide to gain the lead. Morticia then held off Lull's late bid and, despite a light bump by Lull near the sixteenth pole, held on by a nose.
"She's a nice filly," Lezcano said. "She can ride, but she's so little, so she can be bounced around a little bit, but after that, she was fine. I think she's more of a sprinter than going long. Seven-eighths was good for her. She has a lot class."
Off at 3-1, Morticia paid $7.90 on a $2 win bet and improved her career earnings to $153,225.
"It was a really tight finish but you can see how fast she is," said Claudio Cortez, assistant to Arnold. "She always feels so good, so strong. When she gallops, she always looks really, really good. Happy all the time. She did 1:19 and change and she did it really good. She's perfect for these short races."
Lull, who ran fourth for trainer Christophe Clement in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and had raced in three straight graded stakes prior, was the runner-up.
Bellavais, trained by Jimmy Toner, finished third. Con Te Partiro, Lucky Long, Lady Alexandra and Team of Teams completed the order of finish.