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Close Hatches fends off Princess of Sylmar in Gazelle
Juddmonte Farms' Close Hatches successfully passed the stakes test on Saturday when holding off Princess of Sylmar to take the Grade 2, $250,000 Gazelle by 3 1/4 lengths. The 1 1/8-mile Aqueduct affair carried 100 points for the Kentucky Oaks, guaranteeing Close Hatches a spot in the starting gate of that May 3 contest if trainer Bill Mott decides to send her on to Churchill Downs.
"We'll discuss her next start with the racing manager and the owner," Mott remarked. "The (Kentucky Oaks) is certainly a possibility."
Jockey Joel Rosario and Close Hatches headed straight to the front when doors opened from their 2 post, but found company rounding the first turn in the form of Let Me Entertain U and Princess of Sylmar to her outside. Those two backed up a bit and joined Walkwithapurpose, who was saving ground down on the rail just in behind as Close Hatches set splits of :24 1/5, :47 2/5 and 1:10 4/5.
Princess of Sylmar, who carried a four-race win streak into the Gazelle, engaged Close Hatches on the outside entering the final turn and the battle was on. The classy duo raced in tandem down the lane, with Close Hatches holding a very narrow margin over her rival before finally inching away in the final yards to stop the clock in 1:50 2/5 on the fast main track.
"My horse broke well out of the gate, and she found herself on the lead," Rosario explained. "I was fairly confident the whole way. I just had to keep her relaxed and hope she had something left when she turned for home. She's a young filly, and it's only the second time she's gone long, so it looks like she has a future."
Close Hatches was the 6-5 favorite in her stakes bow and paid $4.50, $2.70 and $2.10 to her backers while running her career mark to a perfect three-for-three. The dark bay daughter of First Defense took her racing debut at Gulfstream Park on January 26, scoring by seven lengths in that seven-furlong maiden special weight, and returned at that track on March 10 to add a 1 1/4-length optional claiming victory to her resume while going 1 1/16 miles.
"She showed a lot of courage, is what she showed," Mott praised his filly. "She went to eyeball-to-eyeball with a horse that has a lot of experience, who developed a pretty good record over the course of the winter here and won several stakes. I think for a third start and first time in stakes company, she ran very, very well.
In addition to the 100 Kentucky Oaks points, Close Hatches also garnered the $150,000 winner's share to boost her bankroll to $201,300.
Princess of Sylmar was best of the rest, 3 3/4 lengths in front of Walkwithapurpose. The Majestic Wonder miss captured her last four by a combined 38 3/4 lengths, including wins in the Busanda and Busher in her last pair.
Walkwithapurpose had 16 lengths to spare over fourth-placer Watrugonnadorosie, while Let Me Entertain U and Red Hot Tweet completed the order of finish.
Bred in Kentucky by Millsec Ltd., Close Hatches is the first registered foal out of the winning Storm Cat mare Rising Tornado, who is herself a daughter of the listed-placed Zafonic mare Silver Star. Close Hatches' third dam is the Group 3-winning Sir Ivor mare Monroe, from whom is descended the likes of English, Irish and French highweight sire Xaar and Grade 1-winning stallion Senure.
Most notably, Close Hatches' fourth dam is the blue-hen mare Best in Show, who was honored as the 1982 Broodmare of the Year. She is the dam of 1982 Kentucky Oaks queen Blush With Pride, who is the granddam of champion Rags to Riches, who captured the 2007 editions of the Belmont Stakes and Kentucky Oaks; 2006 Belmont Stakes king Jazil; and Breeders' Cup Marathon victor Man of Iron.
Best in Show is the ancestress of numerous champions and highweights, including top sires Aldebaran, Spinning World, Redoute's Choice and El Gran Senor.