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Vexed captures Golden Rod
Vexed bided her time behind tightly-held pacesetter Daddy's Memory, who established opening fractions of :24 and :47 4/5 while skimming, and once even bouncing off of, the rail down the backstretch. Stonetastic was tracking just off the leader's flank and easily moved up past her rival while Vexed angled out into the three path rounding the turn. Vexed followed Stonetastic into the lane and those two battled in out in midstretch, with Vexed just pulling away late while holding the closing Bird Maker by a length on the line.
"She's a pretty straight-forward filly," Bridgmohan commented. "Obviously, she breaks sharp enough where you can be tactical with her. She left there running. I put her in a good spot. Corey (Lanerie) came in a little bit (with Stonetastic) which was fine, so I got her to the outside and basically it was just a smooth trip from there on out. I was able to dictate when I wanted to go. When I pushed the button, she responded very well.
"(Trainer) Al (Stall Jr.) and his team did a great job. She's a little bit antsy but I think, mentally, she's maturing. I think that now she's maturing mentally that it's going to take her a long way just because she's learning to settle a little bit more, handling herself and finishing well."
Vexed was worth $9.20 for the win as the 7-2 third choice. The Stall trainee finished 1 1/16 miles over Churchill's fast main track in 1:43 4/5 to earn her first stakes win.
"To me it looked like she took a pretty big step forward," Stall said. "I liked the way she acted in the paddock -- she was really flat-footed. Shaun said that once she got clear of (jockey) Corey (Lanerie on Stonetastic) -- he was putting a little heat on her -- she really just dropped it and started galloping along and finished up when she saw some horses coming to her.
"I think we saw what we needed to see so it's a question of just managing her and trying to get back here in May (for the Kentucky Oaks)."
Vexed earned 10 points on the "Road to the Kentucky Oaks" thanks to her Golden Rod win, which also gave co-owner Claiborne Farm its record-equaling 32nd stakes win at Churchill dating back to 1956. Claiborne is now tied with Calumet Farm, which is seeking its first local stakes triumph since 1984 under new operator Brad Kelley.
"I'm just happy to be a part of it," Stall added about saddling Claiborne's record-equaling winner. "I'm just a tiny cog in the wheel. It's exciting to be a part of it. It would be a lot of fun to break it next spring."
Bird Maker, who just broke her maiden under the Twin Spires on November 3, did well in her stakes debut, getting up to take second by a length over Stonetastic as the 3-1 favorite. Naive Enough, who was extremely fractious in the gate, filled out the top four and was followed under the wire by Streethomealabama, Playful Love, Runway Giant, Madly Truly, Daddy's Memory and Canaryinacoalmine.
"She ran very good -- how could you be upset with that?" praised Bird Maker's trainer, Ian Wilkes. "Her first time at two turns, her first time in a stakes race and she was still getting to the winner at the wire. The other filly (Vexed) has had a little more seasoning, so I think she's got a very bright future."
"She ran super," stated Corey Lanerie, who piloted Stonetastic. "At the quarter-pole when I pushed the button I smiled too soon -- I thought I had the race won. She took off and gave me everything she had. She just got outrun today. I had a perfect trip, stalking right on the outside. It was a comfortable pace for her. I had no excuse."
A well-beaten third in her career bow over the synthetic Polytrack at Arlington, Vexed rebounded to break her maiden by 2 3/4 lengths in mid-September when shipped to Churchill. She remained at the Louisville, Kentucky, track following that initial win and just missed by three parts of a length in her stakes debut, the Rags to Riches, last out on October 27.
The Kentucky-bred daughter of Arch improved her record to 4-2-1-1, $143,718, with Saturday's Golden Rod win.
Vexed is out of the stakes-winning Mighty mare Cross, making her a half-sister to 2012 Pocahontas heroine Sign. The duo's dam is herself a half-sibling to Grade 2 victor Lattice, who shares Vexed's sire in Arch. There are a number of stars in this female family, including this year's Arlington Million hero Real Solution and dual Peruvian champion Tunelero.
Most notably, Vexed's fourth dam is the Buckpasser mare Alluvial. She would foal two-time Eclipse Award winner and top sire Slew O' Gold, who ran second in the 1983 Belmont Stakes, as well as 1979 Belmont Stakes victor and successful stallion Coastal. Alluvial is also the grandam of multiple Grade 1 scorer and 2000 Belmont Stakes runner-up Aptitude, another thriving sire, as well as his Grade 1-winning half-sister Sleep Easy.
Vexed's fifth dam is 1957 champion three-year-old filly and noted black-type producer Bayou.