With a royal wedding dominating the news, it only makes sense that a princess would have her day. And so it was today at Arlington International Racecourse, when Princess La Quinta drove past Daddy's Boo to win the Grade 3 Arlington Matron. The victory was Princess La Quinta's first victory in graded stakes company -- as well as the first graded stakes victory for trainer and co-owner James Gulick, as well as for her other co-owner Al Moorhouse.
Arlington mainstay Daddy's Boo, as is her custom, quickly cleared to the lead. Moonlit Garden stalked to her outside, with Kyllachy Queen and Princess La Quinta tracking in the next flight. Moonlit Garden put some mild pressure on Daddy's Boo down the backstretch, and the field bided its time behind. The pacesetter edged farther ahead into the far turn; as Moonlit Garden failed to quicken when implored, Daddy's Boo dared anyone to come catch her.
Turning for home, Princess La Quinta was rallying three wide, with Con Te Partiro beginning to make up some ground from near the rear. Daddy's Boo entered the furlong clear by daylight, but Princess La Quinta was finishing best, and cutting into that lead with every step she took. Ten strides before the wire, Princess La Quinta called her bluff, hitting the wire a length clear of Daddy's Boo. It was another two and three quarters lengths back to Con Te Partiro, who found her best too late to threaten the top two. Felt In Pocket, also near the back for much of the running, came on for fourth another length and three quarters back. Babybluesbdancing, Kyllachy Queen, and Moonlit Garden completed the order of finish. Apologynotaccepted was a veterinarian's scratch.
Princess La Quinta is a four-year-old daughter of Quality Road out of the Tabasco Cat mare Social Scene. She is owned by Al Moorhouse as well as James Gulick, who also trains her. Despite Princess La Quinta's modest auction price -- co-owner Al Moorhouse bought her as a weanling for just $6,500 at the Keeneland November sale in 2014 -- hopes have long been high for Princess La Quinta. "We hoped that she would win a stake for us someday," reflected trainer and co-owner James Gulick after the race, "and it never dawned on me that she would win a graded stake, and it never occurred to me that she would win here at Arlington, a place I love so much. I couldn't be happier." The victory was the first graded stakes victory for Gulick, both as a trainer and as an owner.
Though today was Princess La Quinta's first stakes victory, she has been competitive against class horses her entire career. After a fifth-place debut at Arlington, her connections thought well enough of her to put her in the 2016 Arlington-Washington Lassie. That day, in a field of eleven, she finished a respectable fifth behind runaway victress Diadura. She eventually broke her maiden on the Arlington polytrack in May of last year, also winning an allowance last summer, and finished fifth beaten less than four lengths by Fault in the Pucker Up Stakes (G3) last fall. Third in a pair of allowances at Tampa to begin her four-year-old season, she took a three-month break and then returned to win an allowance-optional claiming race on opening day of the Arlington meet.
Rider Carlos Marquez, who rode Princess La Quinta in both her opening-day victory and in the Matron, knew her well enough to have faith. “The last time I rode her she kind of stumbled a little bit, and I didn’t rush her and she ran super," recalled Marquez. "So today I knew they were gonna send the seven horse [Daddy's Boo] and the eight [Moonlit Garden], they looked like the speed and I was just going to track them as much as I could. It worked out perfect, I tucked into the rail on the first turn and saved ground on the backside, got comfortable and when I said ‘ready’, I said let’s just creep up little by little and she grinded home.”
Princess La Quinta stopped the clock in 1:49.69 for a mile and an eighth over fast polytrack, and the $58,800 winner's share of the purse brought her career earnings to $148,748. As the third choice on the board at 3.4/1, she paid her backers $8.80 to win. The $1 exacta with Daddy's Boo in second (6-7) returned $19.60. A trifecta with 1.3/1 favourite Con Te Partiro in third (6-7-4) came back with $$17.20 for each $0.50 on the combination. The dime superfecta with Felt In Pocket in fourth (6-7-4-3) paid $23.49.
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