Ultra-consistent Luck Money wins first stakes in Zagora
by Brian Bohl
Trainer Arnaud Delacour said Catherine M. Wills' Luck Money was improving all throughout her sophomore campaign and was looking forward to seeing her compete at 1 1/2 miles for the first time. The Lookin At Lucky filly rewarded that optimism when stretched out, taking command out of the final turn and repelling Hungry Kitten's late bid to win Saturday's $80,000 Zagora for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up by a neck in the marathon over the Widener turf course.
Breaking sharp from post 6 under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, Luck Money tracked in fourth position as Beau Belle led the nine-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 24.33 seconds and the half in 50.81 over the yielding turf.
Castellano moved his charge up to third as Lemon Zip took command with the mile clocked in 1:43.43, putting her in position to overtake her from the outside around the far turn.
Entering the stretch, Castellano pressed the issue as Hungry Kitten, under Jose Ortiz, made a late outside bid and Mutakmakina made her own push. But Luck Money hit the wire in 2:36.02, continuing the Kentucky homebred's ultra-consistent streak in improving to 3-3-4 in 10 career starts.
Luck Money registered her first stakes win in just her second attempt, building on a third-place finish two starts back in the 1 5/16-mile Dueling Grounds Oaks on September 10 at Kentucky Downs. She entered off a first-level allowance win on October 2 at Keeneland going 1 1/8 miles.
"I didn't really give Javier too many instructions. He knows the filly well and rode her at Kentucky Downs last time," Delacour said. "My only concern was the yielding turf, but it didn't seem to bother her today. I was hoping she could get there. The mile-and-a-half was an unknown, but she was determined."
Off at 7-1, Luck Money returned $17.80 on a $2 win bet. She increased her career earnings to $224,200.
"That was the trip I was looking for today," said Castellano, who notched his fifth stakes win of the Belmont fall meet. "I rode the filly one time at Kentucky Downs and I didn't know much about her, but I learned a lot in the process.
"I learned how to ride the filly," he added. "She can be in a forward position. She doesn't need to be too far back but she doesn't have to be too close. I just got her into a good rhythm."
Castellano rode the race's namesake, piloting the French-bred Zagora to victory in the 2012 Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita that capped a North American career that featured six graded stakes wins from 2010-12.
"I wanted to win this race today because I rode Zagora and won the Breeders' Cup with her," Castellano said. "These are the types of races I want to win. I had a lot of success with her in the past. I put a lot of focus like I always do into handicapping the race."
Delacour said the Grade 3, $100,000 Long Island on November 28 at Aqueduct Racetrack could be a possible next target.
"That crossed my mind. It's coming back in [four] weeks so she'll have to come back well first. Otherwise, we'll have to wait for longer races this winter in Florida," he said. "We'll let her tell us. She's been shipping everywhere this year, Kentucky Downs, Keeneland, Colonial Downs and I don't want to overdo it with her, but she's a nice little filly for next year."
Hungry Kitten, conditioned by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, fended off the favorite English-bred Mutamakina by a neck for second in the first stakes appearance of her 4-year-old campaign.
Lucky Stride, Cap de Creus, Lemon Zip, Olympic Games, Beau Belle and fellow Delacour trainee Cambeliza completed the order of finish.
The 27-day Belmont fall meet concludes Sunday with a nine-race card that will feature the $80,000 Pumpkin Pie for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up in Race 7 and the $80,000 Chelsey Flower for juvenile fillies in Race 8. First post is 12:15 p.m. Eastern.