As if this year’s 3-year-old filly class wasn’t already loaded with talent, now you can add Gerrymander to the list of first-row sophomores who bear attention every time they enter a starting gate.
In case you needed more proof that the likes of Secret Oath, Nest (more on her in a moment), Kathleen O and Echo Zulu have company, Gerrymander provided it in Saturday’s Grade 2 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park. The Into Mischief filly turned her second start after a 182-day layoff into her third victory in six races.
Going off at 6.50/1, Gerrymander took the early lead before letting Juju’s Map and Shahama take command coming into the turn. Then, Joel Rosario aboard Gerrymander, decided enough was enough. He swung three-wide at the top of the stretch, cleared his rivals at the three-sixteenths pole and rolled home by three lengths.
The victory gave trainer Chad Brown his second stakes score of the day; he earlier won the Wild Applause with Eminent Victor. It gave Gerrymander, who clocked a 95 Beyer Speed Figure and career-best 107 Equibase Speed Figure, her first graded stakes victory. More importantly, it continued the jostling and jockeying for position and prominence atop the already-crowded 3-year-old filly division.
Juju’s Map, Shahama were betting favorites
To mild surprise, it was Gerrymander, not Juju’s Map, UAE Oaks winner Shahama or the slumping Venti Valentine, who finished 11 ½ lengths back in last, doing the jostling. But when you peel back the onion on Gerrymander’s career further, glimpses of this talent emerge.
The reason Gerrymander went off at 6.50/1; Juju’s Map was the 1/2 favorite, came because of her last outing. That was a dismal sixth by nearly 10 lengths in the Grade 2 Eight Belles on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. Gerrymander came into the Eight Belles off a six-month layoff.
“She had been training great all winter,” Brown told the New York Racing Association. “She had one minor setback that cost us some time, but we got back on track. The race at Churchill just didn’t work out for her. It was a wet track and kind of a quick seven-eighths [stuck] down on the inside and she just never picked her feet up. We brought her back to Belmont and she trained brilliant going into this race.”
So one clunker was probably in the offing. Especially when you looked at what Gerrymander accomplished to that point: never finish outside the exacta in four races (2-2-0). Her last race before her hiatus was a gate-to-wire, half-length victory over eventual stakes winner Magic Circle in the Listed Tempted Stakes at Belmont Park. The filly three-quarters of a length back in third? Nest.
Gerrymander has street cred you probably didn’t know
Yes, Gerrymander owns a stakes victory over the Kentucky Oaks and Belmont Stakes runner-up. The same Nest who also won the Grade 1 Ashland by 8 ¼ lengths. That alone, should boost her street and betting cred. In case you need more, she also finished runner-up to Echo Zulu in the Grade 1 Frizette, albeit by 7 ¼ lengths.
So what’s next for Gerrymander? Brown noted her pedigree makes her ideal for the 1 ¼-mile Grade 1 Alabama Aug. 20 at Saratoga. Gerrymander is out of Ruby Lips, a graded stakes-placed Hard Spun mare who also foaled dirt marathon millionaire Lone Rock.
“Being a half (sister) to Lone Rock, who is a cool, consistent horse who runs all day on the dirt, you’d figure she’d have some similarities,” Brown said. “Hopefully, with her pedigree, I don’t think a mile and a quarter is out of the question for this horse. I’d like to try and get to the Alabama with her.”