SHEEPSHEAD S. | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 2 |1 3/8-MILES (TURF)
Irish Group 3 heroine Tannery broke through with her first U.S. victory in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Sheepshead Bay, which was transferred from the Widener to the inner turf course at a soggy Belmont Park. Owned by Richard Santulli and trained by Alan Goldberg, the 10-1 chance benefited from a rail-skimming ride by Luis Saez and prevailed in a race dominated by longshots.
The 15-1 Minakshi went to the early lead, and after a wind-aided opening quarter in :24 1/5, slowed down to post fractions of :50 1/5, 1:16 2/5 and 1:41 2/5 on the soft inner turf. Starformer, the 5-2 second choice, took up a prominent tracking position, while 9-5 favorite Hessonite raced about midpack on the outside. Tannery was content to settle near the rear along the rail, trailed only by the slow-starting Anjaz.
As Minakshi continued to show the way, there was a shuffling among her nearest pursuers. Hessonite made an early move into contention at the six-furlong mark. Soon after, Starformer came up empty and began to backpedal. Julie's Love then seized the opportunity to sneak up along the inside on the far turn. Tannery was also making progress without ever having to come off the fence.
At the top of the stretch, Minakshi still held the advantage as Hessonite and Julie's Love both flattened out, but Tannery was emerging as a threat. The daughter of Dylan Thomas had plenty of room to maneuver inside of Minakshi, and she powered past the pacesetter to take command.
Although the 21-1 Anjaz arrived on the premises with a late challenge, Tannery held her safely at bay by one length. The winner negotiated 1 3/8 miles in 2:20 and rewarded her loyalists with $22.60, $9 and $6.70.
Minakshi crossed the wire another 1 1/4 lengths astern in third. The rest of the field was well string out. There was a five-length gap back to Julie's Love, followed by Mystical Star, Hessonite, Strathnaver and a tailed-off Starformer.
Tannery boosted her earnings to $312,020 from her 15-5-3-1 line. Originally based with David Wachman in Ireland, the bay filly improved significantly over the course of her sophomore campaign in 2012. After breaking her maiden in her sixth attempt, in an ordinary handicap at Dundalk, she made it two in a row when tackling stakes company in the Victor McCalmont Memorial at Gowran. Tannery's progress hit a brief roadblock when she was fifth in the Nijinsky versus males at Leopardstown, but she came right back to win her final two Irish starts.
Tannery had the satisfaction of beating Nijinsky winner Backbench Blues in the Martin Molony at Limerick, and defeated the classy distaffers Caponata and Up in the Kilboy Estate at the Curragh. That marked her final start in the silks of Mrs. D.P. Magnier, for she was subsequently purchased by Santulli and imported to the United States.
Off to a slow start in her American debut in last September's Garden City at Belmont, Tannery closed belatedly for third. She regressed in her second U.S. outing, winding up last of eight in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland, but concluded the year with a close fourth to Starformer and Mystical Star in the November 10 Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct.
Tannery returned in the May 1 Owsley at Belmont and finished a useful fourth to Julie's Love and Minakshi. Connections believed that she'd improve for that tightener, and so she did, to overturn the form.
"Last time when I rode her, I knew she needed the race," Saez said. "I felt today that I could win. My filly was coming out on the first turn because the wind was so strong. I saved ground and I found the hole on the inside, and I rode her strong. Thank God, she won."
"We have a turf course at (Colts Neck Farm)," Goldberg said, "but we've had such a wet spring and we weren't able to train her over it and had to work her on the dirt.
"We try to have our horses fit, but with her first start of the year being a mile and a quarter, I didn't expect her to be completely ready. She came out of the race great, and I thought she'd handle the conditions today."
Bred by Grange Stud in Ireland, Tannery is out of the unraced Sadler's Wells mare Danse Grecque, who is a half-sister to Group 1 star Gamut, Group 2 winner Multicoloured and stakes scorer Athens Belle. Danse Grecque is a three-quarter sister to Irish highweight stayer Saddler's Rock.
Tannery comes from the productive family of 2004 Derby hero North Light and a pair of Derby runners-up -- Group 2 winner Tartan Bearer and Golan, victor of the 2001 Two Thousand Guineas and 2002 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes.