Monday, December 8, 2008

Smooth Bayakoa Win for Speedy Briecat

by Jack Shinar

Upsetter Briecat used her speed to best advantage in Hollywood Park's $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) Dec. 7, turning back a challenge from even-money favorite Model in the homestretch and posting a 2 1/4-length front-running win.

Ridden by Jon Court, the 3-year-old Florida-bred daughter of Adcat was sent off at odds of 13-1. The lone 3-year-old in the field, she earned her first graded stakes win for owners David and Holly Wilson and trainer Vladimir Cerin over a Cushion Track playing well for early speed.

Briecat, who has now won three in a row, completed the 1 1/16-mile test against older fillies and mares in a strong time of 1:40.38. She became the fourth 3-year-old to win the Bayakoa in the past five years.

“She just keeps getting better and better," Cerin said. "When they win a couple in a row their mind changes, and they become confident. It sure looked like Model would blow by her at the quarter pole, but all of a sudden she didn’t."

Cerin said Briecat would be freshened a bit and brought back at Santa Anita to race in the El Encino (gr. II) against 4-year-old fillies Jan. 18.

Model was a clear second by three lengths under Michael Baze, with Wake Up Maggie and David Flores edging Baroness Thatcher for third by three-quarters of a length.

Briecat broke to her inside leaving the gate, bumping with Double Trouble before getting straightened out and heading quickly for the lead. With Baroness Thatcher and the outsider Bai and Bai in pursuit, Briecat clicked off solid early fractions of :23.41, :46.01 and 1:09.79. On the turn for home, Bai and Bai was the first to give way. Baroness Thatcher fought to stay close to Briecat, who was traveling comfortably.

Model, swinging wide rounding the turn with an early move from mid-pack under urging from Baze, advanced on the outside of Baroness Thatcher to challenge Briecat in upper stretch. But Briecat had more than enough left to repel Model and won under a vigorous hand ride in the final sixteenth of mile to record her fifth lifetime victory in 10 starts.

"She was uncontested, and you always want that as the lone speed because it helps at the end," Court said. "She was out there setting her pace, not pressured too much. I never had them more than a length or two away from me. I tried occasionally to open up and make it a little more comfortable margin and just finish in front of them. I called on her in the lane, and she gave me a little kick away from them and held 'em off."

The Irish-bred Wake Up Maggie trailed the field early and made a three-wide move in the stretch to gain the show spot over Baroness Thatcher, who was pulling jockey Victor Espinoza along early.

Coming off a win in a minor stakes at one mile on the grass at Turf Paradise Nov. 15, Briecat has found her best form since Cerin returned her to route distances this fall. She began her winning streak with a victory over Hollywood's Cushion Track against second-level allowance horses at the Bayakoa's 1 1/16-mile distance Oct. 30. Briecat earned $90,000 for the win, boosting her career bankroll to $226,800.

Ocala Oaks and Don R. Graham bred the winner. She is out of Silk Briefcase, by Marlin.

Briecat carried 114 pounds to victory and paid $28.80, $8.80 and $4.60, topping a $2 exacta worth $77.60.

Model, who was a handful while being saddled, had to have her blinkers attached at the starting gate. She returned $3.20 and $2.20. Trained by Neil Drysdale, she was favored off a smart stakes win over the Hollywood surface Nov. 2. She had also finished second in Keeneland's Spinster (gr. I) earlier this fall.

"She was nervous in the paddock but as soon as she hit the track she was great," Baze said. "She relaxed well, warmed up good. She was a lot better when they put the blinkers on. It was a picture perfect trip. A couple of them went and she was sitting perfect on the outside. She made a tremendous move in the middle of the turn, but that other filly just re-broke."

Wake Up Maggie, trained by Julio Canani, was $2.80 to show.

Baroness Thatcher was followed by Double Trouble, Spenditallbaby, and Bai and Bai. Lady Digby scratched.

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