Kaleem Shah’s homebred American Gal, racing for the first time since December when she was trained by Bob Baffert, won at first asking for her new trainer Simon Callaghan this Sunday at Belmont Park. The 3-year-old daughter of Concord Point was the easy winner of the G3 Victory Ride Stakes, pulling away from four rival sophomore fillies to win by about 4 3/4 lengths. Ridden by Flavien Prat, American Gal covered 6 1/2 furlongs over the fast main track in 1:17.38.
“She had worked brilliantly coming into this race, so we expected a big effort,” Shah said. “I would have been surprised if she had lost. I’m so pleased with the race and hopefully we go on to bigger and better things. Her next target will be the [Grade] 1 Test [on August 5].”
Breaking from the center of the five-filly field, American Gal stumbled and went to her knees at the start. Recovering quickly, the filly was then slammed on both sides by Golden Mischief and Noble Freud. American Gal bull-dogged her way through the jostling to put her head in front of a four-way battle for the lead down the backstretch, clocking a quarter in 22.48 seconds.
Too Much Tip was just a neck behind American Gal on the rail, and the leader was flanked on her outside by both Noble Freud and Vertical Oak, while Golden Mischief trailed the field a length or so off the lead. Battling into the far turn through a half-mile in 45.84 seconds, American Gal managed to extend her lead to a half-length at the head of the stretch.
Hard-ridden by prat from the quarter pole, American Gal began to inch away from the field, finally pulling away in the final eighth of a mile. She would cross under the wire approximately four lengths in front of Vertical Oak, who scored a hard-fought second by a neck over Noble Freud. Golden Mischief threatened briefly near the top of the lane but flattened out to finish fourth.
“[Trainer] Simon [Callaghan] did a great job and she was ready to run today,” Prat added. “She stumbled a bit from the gate, then after that when she was on the lead around the turn, she was ready.”
Bred in Kentucky by her owner, American Gal is out of American Story, the graded stakes-placed daughter of Ghostzapper. The filly broke her maiden at first asking, then put in a dominant 6 1/2-length victory in a listed stake at Santa Anita, making her the favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Third in the championships, American Gal returned to run second to the talented Abel Tasman in the G1 Starlet Stakes.
A well-publicized split with trainer Bob Baffert had American Gal moved into the care of trainer Simon Callaghan, and this was her first start for the new conditioner. The Victory Ride is her first graded stakes victory, and improves American Gal’s record to three wins from five starts, with earnings of over $ 400,000.
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