Paul Leitchfield and Jack Stewart’s homebred Engaginglee earned her first stakes victory in Saturday’s G3 Locust Grove at Churchill Downs, edging Miss Pink Diva at the wire. The 5-year-old daughter of Fusaichi Pegasus, ridden by Luis Saez, covered 1 1/16 miles over the muddy main track in 1:46.24 for trainer Dale Romans.
“She was coming into the race in real good shape,” said Romans. “I thought that she was on the verge of a break through race. She deserved to be a graded stakes winner and now she got it. I have no explanation for the performance at Ellis (Park) but it’s good to make her a graded stakes winner now. She and I have one thing in common and that’s that we both love Churchill Downs.”
Engaginglee broke well but was relegated to last of the six-horse field by the first turn, with Innovative Idea leading Miss Pink Diva by a half-length through a first quarter in :24.93. Saez guided Engaginglee to the inside, saving all the ground through that turn and keeping her covered up down the backside as the leaders ticked off a half mile in 49.32. Entering the far turn, Saez had to be very patient on Engaginglee as he was boxed in until mid-way through that turn. As soon as he was able to move outside without breaking the mare’s stride, he went around one horse and inside another, splitting rivals with an impressive burst of speed to mark third position at the top of the lane.
Engaginglee appeared to hang for a moment as Miss Pink Diva and Innovative Idea battled for the lead along the inside, but Saez switched his stick and got her moving again, passing the leading duo in the late stages. Miss Pink Diva was very game and fought back after Engaginglee passed her, decreasing the winning margin from a half-length to just a head on the wire. Innovative Idea had to settle for third, and Sweetgrass was fourth. Heavy favorite Ahh Chocolate finished sixth.
“It was a great trip, said Luis Saez. “She was coming from behind. She broke well and we saved ground and when I asked her she responded very well. I had a little more left, she was hanging a little bit but she battled back and fought very well.”
Bred in Kentucky, the mare had previously earned multiple graded stakes placings, including a second-place effort in the G1 La Troienne Stakes. Overall, she boasts a record of 4-6-4 from 23 starts, with earnings of over $ 300,000.
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