Thursday, January 1, 2015

America starts the New Year off with a bang in Affectionately

Thursday, January 1, 2015


America starts the New Year off with a bang in Affectionately


By Sean Morris


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Bobby Flay's America rang in the New Year with style on Thursday at Aqueduct Racetrack, closing with a rush to take the first stakes race on the 2015 New York Racing Association calendar - the $100,000 Affectionately for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up.


Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, America had been in search of her first stakes win for much of 2014, but her campaign ultimately proved to be fruitless, with third-place finishes in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks and Grade 1 Mother Goose the closest she came to a stakes victory.


After a string of eight straight stakes appearances, Mott elected to give his filly a confidence boost at the tail end of her 3-year-old campaign, and she responded by taking a first-level allowance race and an optional claimer by a combined 8 ½ lengths to close out the year.


Mott's assistant, Leanna Willaford, noticed a change in America upon rejoining stakes company on Thursday.


"Normally, you have to really pedal on her to get her going, but [jockey] Junior [Alvarado] said she really took him today," said Willaford. "You could see in the turn, she ran around the turn a little better than normal, and continued to finish well from there."


Alvarado corroborated Willaford's observation following the race.


"She's a filly where previously at the half-mile pole you had to start riding her hard because she didn't have a strong kick and would start to drop back, but today as soon as I started to pick it up with her she was ready to go - picking it up real fast," said the jockey.


Away from post 5, America settled in last behind a legitimate pace of 23.94 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 47.93 for the half, and 1:12.30 for three-quarters set by Penwith.


With the pacesetter spurting away in upper stretch, America's chances looked grim, but the resilient filly kept on chugging in the stretch, getting up to win by a nose on the wire.


"She broke and got a little bit squeezed at the break, I just let her relax and get in a nice rhythm," said Alvarado. "As soon as we turned for home I didn't know if we would get there, but I knew it was going to be close because she was responding well for me."


America completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.68, and returned $10.40 on a $2 win wager. Her bankroll now stands at $306,940.


The Godolphin-owned entry of Penwith and Divided Attention finished second and third, respectively, with Penwith three lengths clear of her stablemate on the line.


It was another half-length back to Shayjolie in fourth, who finished 2 ¼ lengths ahead of odds-on favorite and multiple Grade 1 winner Belle Gallantey.


Simply Spectacular, Agawa, and Mylitta completed the order of finish.




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