Sheep Pond Partners, Newport Stables and Bradley Thoroughbreds’ Roca Rojo skipped clear of the pack in the stretch of Sunday’s G3 Athenia Stakes, crossing under the wire nearly four lengths in front. Under Javier Castellano, the 4-year-old daughter of Strategic Prince covered 1 1/16 miles over Belmont’s soft turf course in 1:43.20 for trainer Chad Brown.
Means Well and My Sweet Girl left the gates together for the lead, with the former taking the advantage through the first quarter mile in :25.12. All In Fun was a bit slow into stride, but rushed up to join the leaders and take over before the half-mile mark, moving out to a 1 1/2 length advantage after a half in :49.34. Those three were followed by Mexican Gold and Sea Cost in tandem, with Roca Rojo leading the second flight of fillies and mares. Co-favored Strike Charmer was last early after steadying at the start.
Rounding the far turn, All In Fun, Means Well and My Sweet Girl were moving together to lead the field into the stretch. Mexican Gold angled out to be four-wide late in the turn, making her move at the top of the lane along with Roca Rojo to her outside. Down the stretch Castellano and Roca Rojo skipped away from the field without much trouble, extending her lead late to cross under the wire nearly four lengths in front. Stormy Victoria closed from the rear of the field to be second, nosing out Mexican Gold. Strike Charmer got up to be fourth.
Bred in Ireland by Mr. Tommy Murphy, the filly began her career there with consecutive victories. She was transferred to the United States after over a year’s layoff, winning first out at Belmont. She was then fourth in a listed stake, and won another allowance in her most recent effort. The Athenia is Roca Rojo’s first graded stakes victory, bringing her career record to five wins from six starts with earnings of just under $ 250,000.
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