ARLINGTON HEIGHTS -- On a crowded day at Arlington, with the crowd already abuzz with excitement for the Belmont Stakes, nine three-year-old fillies headed postward in the $100,000 Purple Violet Stakes. The race featured two previous Illinois-bred stakes winners: Pistols Drawn, the winner of the Pretty Jenny Stakes at Hawthorne on April 26, as well as Lakotadreamcatcher, the long-shot winner of the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante last December. They took on a field that included Pretty Jenny second- and third-place finishers Brazyn Appeal and Gabio, Showtime Deb bridesmaid Richies Sweetheart, and three others with only a maiden win to their name.
Pistols Drawn was the 2/1 morning line favourite, but at 25 minutes to post, Richies Sweetheart was sitting at 2/1, the betting favourite at the moment. Bellarada, one of the maiden winners, was a fairly perplexing second choice in the early money; she sat at 5/2 when the simulcast feed started showing odds. In the paddock, it was Cabana who drew the eye: she had a lot of energy, though the amount of energy danced along that fine line of possibly tapping her racing reserves. As post time drew nearer, the odds became a bit closer to the expected line; Pistols Drawn and shipper Cabana began to take more money. By post time, Richies Sweetheart remained the bettors' favourite, going off at 8/5. Pistols Drawn was next at 5/2, and Cabana went at 7/2. The late money did not show quite as much faith in Bellarada as the early money did; she went off at 18/1.
Richies Sweetheart shot to the early lead, as expected. Countess Cashmere, 5/1 at post time, briefly vied for the early lead as well. She soon settled back about a length and a half along the rail, with Cabana behind her in third early. Richies Sweetheart set honest early fractions on her lead: the quarter in 23.52, the half in 46.80. At the half-mile, Richies Sweetheart had the lead by 3 1/2 lengths. Coming through the far turn, Countess Cashmere started closing up the distance, and Pistols Drawn looked like she was beginning a move on the outside. However, only one of these horses was able to sustain a run at the leader. Coming into the stretch, Richies Sweetheart and the gaining Countess Cashmere put daylight between them and the rest of the field, and Countess Cashmere was gaining with every stride. The leader dug in gamely, but grudgingly relinquished the lead in the final sixteenth. Countess Cashmere finished half a length in front of pacesetter Richies Sweetheart, in a final time of 1:37.83. Brazyn Appeal, ignored by the bettors at 15/1 despite her second-place Pretty Jenny finish, had the most kick of any closer in the field. She made a belated outside run in the final furlong, and finished a clear-cut third, 2 3/4 lengths behind the winner.
Cabana, who had dropped back to mid-pack through the far turn, had enough late to hold fourth by a head over the deep-closing Sunshine Caris; they were 5 3/4 lengths behind Countess Cashmere. Morning line favourite Pistols Drawn, unable to sustain a late run, finished a neck behind Sunshine Caris in sixth. Lakotadreamcatcher, Bellarada, and Gabio completed the order of finish.
Countess Cashmere, by Bellamy Road out of the Vicar mare Bankruptcy Babe, raced for the first time since her maiden win on May 17. In that race, a six-furlong maiden special weight over the Arlington polytrack, she scored a game 1/2 length win over promising Chris Block trainee Ready For Summer. That race was her first attempt over the polytrack; she had hit the board in two previous state-bred maiden special weights at Hawthorne in March. The Purple Violet was her first attempt past six furlongs, but her pedigree suggested that a mile on the polytrack was well within her reach. Countess Cashmere is the full sister to Reigning Catfish, who won the Springfield Stakes in 2013. Both Countess Cashmere and Reigning Catfish are trained by Tom Swearingen, who also trains last week's Springfield Stakes winner I Got It All.
"Knowing the family, the distance suits them well and they love the Polytrack," Swearingen stated, "She performed even better than we expected." Swearingen also had praise for how his filly was progressing toward the Purple Violet. "She trained well into the race. She's a real professional filly."
Jockey Carlos Marquez, Jr., who rode Countess Cashmere, had a plan for the ride, in light of the fact that it was her first route race. "Last time I rode her it was three-quarters and she'd never been (a mile), so obviously she was going to be a little rank early," Marquez observed, "but I managed to get her to sit off Timmy's filly (Richies Sweetheart, ridden by Tim Thornton) and she finished well. I let Timmy go. I didn't want to go head and head with her because we'd burn each other out." About the end of the race, Marquez remarked, "I was able to get outside first. I waited as long as I can. When I asked her, she responded. Both fillies were giving their all and my filly just got the edge on her (at) the last part."
Tim Thornton, the jockey for second-place Richies Sweetheart, acknowledged that taking Richies Sweetheart the whole mile on the front would be a tough task. "It was going to be tough to stretch her out a mile. I thought I got an easy enough lead and got her to relax. I thought it was a slow enough pace. I just didn't have enough to finish with to hang on; she ran well, couldn't hold up late."
Countess Cashmere paid $13.00 to win. A $2 exacta with her over Richies Sweetheart returned $45.60. The trifecta, with Brazyn Appeal placed in the third slot, paid $72.50 for each $0.50 base bet. The $0.10 superfecta, with Cabana under the top three, returned $56.13 for each dime bet on the combination.
Photography is courtesy of Four Footed Fotos.
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