After being purchased privately for a lofty but undisclosed sum, Sky Girl provided new owner John Clay’s Alpha Delta Stables with a quick return on investment.
The 3-year-old filly found an opening on the rail in the stretch and ran down Irish Lute to win Saturday’s 38th running of the $110,000 Dogwood (Grade III) at Churchill Downs by a convincing 1 ½ lengths.
Sky Girl, ridden by Corey Lanerie, ran seven furlongs on a fast main track in 1:23.73 to pad Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s Churchill Downs career win and stakes win records. It was his 674th local victory and 88th stakes triumph beneath the Twin Spires.
Sky Girl, previously trained by Paul McGee, was privately sold to Clay by owner Samantha Siegel’s Jay Em Ess Stable following her third-place finish in the Arlington Park Oaks (GIII), which was contested over 1 1/8 miles on the synthetic Polytrack surface on July 20. Prior to the that effort, she was victorious in two starts during Churchill Downs’ Spring Meet – a 4 ½-length romp in a maiden special weight followed by a two-length score in a first-level allowance/optional claiming race.
In her first start for Mott, Sky Girl broke from the inside post in the field of six 3-year-old fillies and patiently tracked pacesetters Irish Lute and Guadalupe High, who dueled for the early lead through modest fractions of :23.16 and :46.30. Irish Lute put away Guadalupe High on the final turn as Sky Girl ranged into contention with a three-wide move. The eventual winner was bottled up behind the leaders at the top of the stretch but Lanerie patiently waited for a hole to open on the inside and angled the filly in for her winning move.
"I was hoping to come around – I thought the rail was a little bit dead – but it was getting late in the race and (inside) looked like my only option,” Lanerie said. “I didn’t want to wait too long.”
“I thought she showed a lot of heart to come up the inside and push past the five (Irish Lute) and she won pretty nicely,” said Mott’s veteran Kentucky assistant Kenny McCarthy.
Sky Girl, sent to post as the 4-5 betting favorite, paid $3.80, $2.60 and $2.20. Irish Lute, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, returned $3.20 and $2.60. Elusive Fate, was another neck back in third under Brian Hernandez Jr., and paid $3.80.
Don’t Tell Veda, Finding More and Guadalupe High completed the order of finish. So Many Ways, Fusaichiswonderful and Thetaloveandmine were scratched.
The $67,518 first prize jumped Sky Girl’s career earnings to $150,853. The new stakes winner has won three of five starts overall with a pair of thirds. Each of her victories has come at Churchill Downs.
“She’s got a big future, I think,” Lanerie said.
Sky Girl, a daughter of Sky Mesa out of the Deputy Minister mare Vargas Girl, was bred in Kentucky by Eamon Cleary’s Clearsky Farms of Lexington. She was sold at Keeneland’s 2011 September Yearling Sale for $150,000.
The Dogwood – named for the hardy, blooming tree that adds beauty to the spring landscape in Kentucky – was renewed at Churchill Downs’ September Meet following a one-year hiatus. It had been run during the Spring Meet from 1975 to 2011.
For Mott, it was his second Dogwood victory. He won the race in 1984 with Hiram Polk and David Richardson’s classy filly Mrs. Revere.
KENNY McCARTHY, assistant to BILL MOTT, trainer of SKY GIRL (winner): “We had thought the rail was a little bit dead, and our game plan was to come off the rail if the field spread out a little bit. But Corey (Lanerie) said when they turned for home that opening (on the rail) was there and he couldn’t avoid it and had to take it. But I thought she showed a lot of heart to come up the inside and push past the five (Irish Lute) and she won pretty nicely.”
COREY LANERIE, rider of SKY GIRL (winner): Q: She got out of the gate a little slowly … “I was actually hoping to be laying third. They weren’t going very fast after they out-broke me ; they covered me up. I was content with sittin’ and she was traveling so nice up to the quarter pole. I was hoping to come around – I thought the rail was a little bit dead – but it was getting late in the race and (inside) looked like my only option. I didn’t want to wait too long. When I swung down there she bogged down on me a little bit and for one minute I thought I maybe wasn’t going to get there. When she got in there she kind of loafed on me a little bit – she was like, ‘I got ‘em, don’t worry.’ What a nice horse.”
Q: You rode this horse in four races for her former trainer Paul McGee. What kind of instructions from the tram of new trainer Bill Mott? “They just told me you know her better than us. Try not to get stuck down on the fence – which I did. But it worked out.”
Q: It looked like when you got the spot on the inside, she would spurt right through – but it took a bit … “I thought I was going to run right through it, but I didn’t. I didn’t know if it was just when she got in there she started looking around a little bit, or just the racetrack cupping out from under her. But when I was sitting behind ‘em, I thought ‘I’ve got ‘em when I want ‘em.’ She’s got a big future, I think.”
DALLAS STEWART, trainer of IRISH LUTE (runner-up): “She ran terrific. She was in command of the race the whole time and she just got beat by a nice filly.”