Bien Nicole romps in WinStar Galaxy
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Just a few hundred yards into the $500,000 WinStar Galaxy Stakes, Bien Nicole already was far in front. That's usually a no-no in a turf marathon, but when the field passed the wire for the second and final time, Bien Nicole, ridden by Don Pettinger, was the easiest of winners, prevailing by 7 1/4 lengths in the Grade 2 race Sunday at Keeneland.
"That was amazing," said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains Bien Nicole for John and Kristine Richter. "When I looked at the fractions, I thought she was OK, but then after I saw how far in front she was, I thought, 'She just has to be going too fast.' But by the time she hit the quarter-pole, I started feeling pretty good about it."
Down the backstretch in the 1 3/16-mile race, Bien Nicole led by 11 lengths, a margin she maintained into the far turn. With about a half-mile left, Volga emerged among the rest to give chase, but to no avail, as Bien Nicole simply kept motoring. Approach, making her U.S. debut for trainer Sir Mark Prescott, was up to finish second, followed by New Economy, Wonder Again, Volga, and Apasionata Sonata.
Bien Nicole, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred mare by Bien Bien, returned $5 as favorite after finishing in 1:55.87 over a firm turf.
Von Hemel said Bien Nicole most likely earned a trip to the Oct. 25 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf with her 12th win from 24 lifetime starts. In her previous start, Bien Nicole was second in the Grade 1 Beverly D.
"She's the rare kind of horse who keep improving from 3 to 4 to 5," said Von Hemel. "It's really been rewarding to see her make the kind of progress she has."
* Earlier Sunday, Remind ($6.20) showed his versatility when coming from eighth in a field of nine 3-year-olds to win the $84,225 Storm Cat Stakes at a mile on turf. The Deputy Minister colt surged to the lead inside the eighth pole, then turned back favored Moonshine Hall to win by a half-length in 1:36.33.
Jerry Bailey was aboard the Deputy Minister colt for owner-breeder Claiborne Farm and trainer Bill Mott. "Even though he was (second-to-last) today, he knew what he was doing," said Bailey. "He kind of dogged it when he made the lead, but he got the job done."
Remind mostly had used pace-pressing tactics when finishing second in four straight graded turf stakes leading into the Storm Cat.