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Kathmanblu scores in Rachel Alexandra
Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables' KATHMANBLU (Bluegrass Cat) was touted as the filly to beat in Saturday's $147,000 Rachel Alexandra S. (G3) at Fair Grounds, and didn't disappoint her numerous backers when pulling off the 1 1/4-length victory under jockey Julien Leparoux.
The Kenny McPeek charge settled into a tracking spot while three wide on the backstretch as Gran Lioness (Lion Heart) used her rail post to take command when the gates opened. As Gran Lioness reeled off splits of :24 4/5 and :49 1/5, Kathmanblu continued her stalking trip in fourth before picking up the pace a bit nearing the turn. The pacesetter was a bit weary by the time she entered the stretch, and Kathmanblu was ready to pounce after ranging up to her outside.
Leparoux asked his mount for her run and Kathmanblu responded, albeit not with the burst of speed that saw her draw off in the Golden Rod S. (G2) last year at Churchill Downs. Her victory this time came in more workmanlike fashion, but it did come as she crossed under the wire in a final time of 1:45 for the 1 1/16-mile fast-track test.
"She is very good, you know," Leparoux praised his mount. "She relaxed very nice in the first turn and she got it done. I got a clean trip and that was important."
Sent off the 3-5 favorite, Kathmanblu paid $3.20, $2.20 and $2.10 for capturing her third straight stakes. Inglorious (Hennessy) raced next to last throughout before putting in a good enough rally to overtake Gran Lioness by three parts of a length on the wire. The pacesetter had a length to spare over fourth-placer Bouquet Booth (Flower Alley), while Chloe Kate (Afleet Alex) and Tapit Dancer (Tapit) completed the order under the wire. Lilacs and Lace (Flower Alley) was withdrawn.
"She's all class. She always has been," McPeek said. "I think she is a lot better than she ran today.
"We were a little conservative with her with her workouts coming into the race. There's a lot of time between now and the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and that is obviously the bigger goal.
"She overcame everything. She got a little stirred up with the delay in the previous race. I guess they had trouble with the gate and my staff was bringing her over; she saw the running of the previous race and was really hard to handle in the paddock. She wasn't her usual self but she got it done."
Kathmanblu didn't do so well in her career debut at Churchill last June, running eighth against maiden rivals. McPeek decided to switch the bay lass to the turf next out, and the moved paid off as she posted a half-length score at Ellis Park on July 17. Given a month's vacation, Kathmanblu returned at Saratoga against stakes rivals and put in a decent effort to be second in the P. G. Johnson S.
Something must have clicked for Kathmanblu following the P. G. Johnson, as she reappeared at Keeneland and dominated the Jessamine S. by four lengths on October 14. That earned the miss a shot at Breeders' Cup glory, and she rallied to be third in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G2) following a troubled trip. McPeek gave his pupil another shot at the dirt in the Golden Rod, and Kathmanblu showed her true colors when drawing away to be 8 1/2 lengths clear under the Twin Spires on that occasion.
She made her three-year-old bow back on the grass in the Sweetest Chant S. at Gulfstream Park, posting a 1 1/4-length victory that day, and this one improved her record to 8-5-1-1, $470,731.
"We have a choice between the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), the Gulfstream Oaks (G2), or possibly the Ashland (G1)," McPeek mused over Kathmanblu's next start. "We will take her back to Miami and Gulfstream. Let her settle in and take our time. We got no pressure at this point. Hopefully she will dictate where we go."
Bred by Five D Thoroughbreds in Kentucky, Kathmanblu is the first stakes winner out of multiple stakes-placed Abba Gold (Devil's Bag), who has since produced a juvenile colt named Platform (Pulpit). Abba Gold is herself a daughter of dual stakes heroine Valiant Jewel (Buckley Boy), making her a half-sister to Friendly Michelle (Artax), who captured the 2004 Prioress S. (G1) and La Troienne S. (G3) as well as placing in the Acorn S. (G1) and Las Virgenes S. (G1).
Kathmanblu, who RNA'd for $57,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, comes from the same family as 2010 Comely S. (G3) runner-up Speightful Affair (Speightstown).