GAZELLE STAKES | PURSE: $350,000 | 3-YEAR-OLD FILLIES | GRADE 1 | 1 1/8 MILES
Godolphin Racing's Dance Card gave jockey Ramon Dominguez his fifth win on Saturday's card at Aqueduct when posting an easy four-length victory in the Grade 1, $350,000 Gazelle as the wire-to-wire winner.
Dance Card slipped through on the inside to take command heading onto the backstretch and proceeded to set splits of :23 4/5, :48 3/5 and 1:12 3/5 while closely tracked by My Wandy's Girl to her outside. The rest of the field attempted to put in runs entering the final turn, but the top pair continued motoring right into the lane.
Dance Card was still easily holding My Wandy's Girl, even while drifting toward the grandstand in the stretch, and completed 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track in 1:50 1/5 to earn her fourth straight score. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, the Tapit sophomore was sent off the 8-5 favorite and returned $5.30, $3.40 and $2.60.
"It's not ideal [drifting out in the lane], but as long as they cross the wire first " McLaughlin mused. "[Dance Card and Questing, who also drifts out at times] are both Grade 1 winners, so if that's what it takes, we'll take it. It's never felt so good to be for two for our last 52.
"It looked like that was the thing to do," he added about Dance Card setting the pace. "I didn't say anything [to Dominguez]. He wins plenty of races without instruction."
"When she drifted out in the stretch, she was just looking around. I'm not worried about it, or complaining about it," Dominguez shrugged. "She's a beautiful animal with high cruising speed and she can pick it up whenever you ask her. She was perfect through the whole race, and down the lane she wanted to drift out some, but she keeps running.
"She's special, and I love her."
My Wandy's Girl was just caught by Sea Island's neck on the wire, and it was another length back to fourth-placer Lady Cohiba. Book Review, Jemima's Pearl and Wildcat's Smile completed the order of finish.
Dance Card opened her racing career in May at Belmont Park, finishing second to Book Review in a seven-furlong maiden. McLaughlin gave his gray charge a couple of months, then brought her back in a 1 1/16-mile maiden at Big Sandy. Dance Card posted a half-length win on that occasion to break her maiden and proceeded to add an optional-claiming victory at Saratoga to her resume on August 17.
She did that despite drifting out, and brought that same scenario back to Belmont in the Belle Cherie to triumph by 7 1/2 lengths on September 23. Once again showing a tendency to veer out in the lane, Dance Card improved her record to 4-1-0 from five career starts in the Gazelle and has accumulated $372,200 in lifetime earnings.
Bred in Kentucky by Bruce McMillin, Dance Card sold for $67,000 as a Keeneland September yearling before turning into a very successful pinhook when purchased for $750,000 by John Ferguson at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Sale last season. She is out of the dual stakes-placed Editor's Note mare Tempting Note, who also produced Dance Card's full brother and Grade 2 runner-up Tempted to Tapit. This is the same female family as Grade 3-winning full sisters Thinghatab and Tabayour, both by Al Hattab.