A troubled second here last year, Michael E. Kisber, Bradley Thoroughbreds and Nelson McMakin's Watsdachances found a smooth road to success in Saturday's $150,000 Galllorette Handicap at Pimlico. The Chad Brown mare was bet down to 2-1 favoritism following the scratch of morning-line choice Hard Not to Like, and duly obliged with a strong late charge to overwhelm Emotional Kitten.
Watsdachances had not raced since finishing fourth to stablemate Stephanie's Kitten in last September's Flower Bowl Invitational, but that was no deterrent. In addition to Brown's high strike rate off the layoff, the bay had turned in a superb effort in defeat when reappearing in the 2014 Gallorette. On that occasion, she lagged far behind the early pace, encountered traffic trouble at a crucial juncture on the far turn, and flew once clear to miss by a half-length to front-running Somali Lemonade. Watsdachances subsequently stepped up in trip, winding up third in the Matchmaker and fourth in the Glens Falls prior to the Flower Bowl.
Resuming over the 1-1/16-mile distance that arguably suits her best, Watsdachances was anchored off the pace but in the clear on the outside. Up front, Oscar Party led the way through an opening quarter in :23 3/5 seconds. British import Token of Love, a bit fresh in her U.S. debut, then took over and established fractions of :47 2/5 seconds and 1:11 1/5. Emotional Kitten challenged Token of Love in upper stretch and subdued the longtime leader, only to have Watsdachances swoop on her in turn beneath Javier Castellano.
Finding the superior turn of foot, Watsdachances won going away by a length in a final time of 1:40.79 -- just off the course record of 1:40.32 set by Precious Kitten in the 2007 Gallorette. That won't be the only mention that Precious Kitten gets on Preakness Day, for she's also the dam of Divining Rod, the Lexington Stakes winner with an outsider's shot in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.
"I was kind of worried a little bit," said Castellano, who will also ride Divining Rod. "Hard Not to Like, she scratched. I didn't see much speed in the race. Usually my horse comes from behind. I don't want to change anything. She hadn't run for eight months. She put me in a good spot in the race. I didn't want to be too far back or too close to the pace. I think I put her in a good spot in the middle to give me a good run and she did. She did excellent today and she galloped out beautiful."
"She's a horse that always gives her all," John Batter of co-owner Bradley Thoroughbreds said of Watsdachances. "Coming in we didn't think there was a lot of speed. We wanted to be a little closer today. She's usually a deep closer. Coming home, we let her run and she did it for us. She came in training really well and we were confident in her ability to run in this race."
Emotional Kitten crossed the wire 1-1/4 lengths clear of Sistas Stroll, who was also in the thick of contention -- sandwiched between Emotional Kitten and Token of Love -- before tiring in deep stretch. Bocaiuva rallied from last to fourth, despite a checkered passage and a lost whip. Token of Love faded to sixth in the 11-distaffer field.
Watsdachances, who returned $6.80 to win, improved her resume to 16-5-4-3, $707,088. Imported after a six-length maiden romp at Navan as a juvenile, she made a winning U.S. bow in the 2012 P.G. Johnson at Saratoga, added the Miss Grillo, and finished best of the rest behind Flotilla in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Her sophomore campaign featured placings in the 2013 Sands Point, Lake George and Lake Placid before an overdue score in the Summer Secretary late in the season at Aqueduct.
Bred by P.G. Lyons in Ireland, Watsdachances RNA'd as a weanling at Goffs November. She was produced by the winning Entrepreneur mare High Finance, who is herself a half-sister to Group 3 victress Reunion.