Southern California invader WICKEDLY PERFECT (Congrats), who suffered her first career loss last time out in the Darley Debutante S. (G1) at Del Mar, got back on the winning track with a wire-to-wire victory in Friday's $400,000 Alcibiades S. (G1) on opening day at Keeneland. Under a well-judged ride by Rafael Bejarano, the 3-2 favorite maintained a safe two-length margin in her two-turn debut, and thereby propelled herself into the November 5 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs.
"She always trained like a filly that wanted to run long," winning trainer Doug O'Neill said. "That's why we put blinkers on her in her very first start. She's shown amazing speed in all her races, but she's always acted like a filly that would want to go a distance of ground.
"I have to thank my brother Dennis," O'Neil added. "He's the one who helped pick her out (at the OBS April Sale). Bob Feld… I got a laundry list of people that if they weren't involved, we wouldn't have gotten the filly. I want to thank everybody. This is unbelievable. Churchill Downs, here we come."
Unlike the Darley Debutante, where Wickedly Perfect was pressed early through torrid fractions, the gray was allowed to lope along uncontested through splits of :24 2/5 and :50. Wonderlandbynight (Sky Mesa), the hitherto unbeaten Arlington-Washington Lassie S. (G3) winner, and Dos Lunas (Hennessy) raced virtually in tandem as her nearest stalkers, while Lassie runner-up Jordy Y (Congrats) was pocketed by them on the inside.
On the far turn, Wonderlandbynight threw down the gauntlet, flanked wider out by Dos Lunas, as Wickedly Perfect reached the six-furlong mark in 1:15 4/5. The leader was traveling too strongly, however. Kicking on resolutely, Wickedly Perfect dismissed her would-be challengers and spurted away entering the stretch.
Jordy Y, who had always stayed within striking range, overtook a one-paced Wonderlandbynight in midstretch. Then the late-running Harlan's Ruby (Harlan's Holiday) found a seam between rivals and finished boldly to nip Jordy Y, but her rally never troubled the winner.
Wickedly Perfect negotiated 1 1/16 Polytrack miles in 1:46 1/5, giving Bejarano a sweep of the day's stakes after Wise Dan (Wiseman's Ferry) captured the Phoenix S. (G3). She also ranks as the first Grade 1 winner for her freshman sire Congrats, who nearly had the exacta with Jordy Y.
O'Neill and Bejarano complimented each other for her performance before an opening-day crowd of 17,148.
"Doug did such a great training job," Bejarano said. "She was really relaxed in the first quarter. She was so relaxed, that I knew I could do anything in the race.
"I think she's going to be tough after this race (in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies). She won't have to be in the lead next time."
"Rafael did such brilliant job of slowing everybody down and saving enough filly," O'Neill said. "She's just a quality filly. Hat's off to the Vinery; they have such a beautiful stallion in Congrats. He's a comer. We're just very pumped."
Wickedly Perfect returned $5, $3.20 and $2.40. Harlan's Ruby, the 9-2 third choice, paid $4.80 and $2.80 for getting her nose down on the wire for second. Jordy Y drew 1 3/4 lengths clear of 5-2 second choice Wonderlandbynight and furnished $3 to show. The exotics totaled $24.60 (exacta), $68.20 (trifecta) and $149.60 (6-2-3-4 superfecta). Forest Legend (Forest Camp), Dos Lunas and Brushfirefairytale (Najran) rounded out the order of finish. Poof Too (Distorted Humor) was scratched in favor of Saturday's Mazarine S. (Can-G3) at her home base of Woodbine.
Campaigned by STD Racing Stable, Peter Moehrke and Rafter JR Ranch, Wickedly Perfect boosted her bankroll to $404,600 from her 4-3-1-0 line. A 4 3/4-length debut winner on June 27 at Hollywood Park, she followed up with a victory in the August 6 Sorrento S. (G3). Wickedly Perfect stepped up slightly to seven furlongs in the September 4 Darley Debutante, where she surged to a clear lead in midstretch, only to be swamped by Tell a Kelly (Tapit) and relegated to second.
Bred in Florida by Y-Lo Racing Stables, Wickedly Perfect was purchased for $70,000 as an OBS April two-year-old in training. She was produced by Wickedly Wise (Tactical Cat), who is also responsible for Ash Zee (Exchange Rate), runner-up in last Saturday's Indiana Oaks (G2); a yearling filly named Wicked Mizz (Mizzen Mast); and a weanling filly named Wicked Ride (Candy Ride [Arg]).
Wickedly Wise is herself a half-sister to the stakes-winning producer Cayman Sunset (Wolf Power [SAf]), the dam of Grade 3 winner Sailors Sunset and the stakes winner Sailor's Sunset, both by Petionville. This is the family of Grade 2 winner North Sea (Nearctic).