Somewhat reminiscent of 2009 Kentucky Derby-winner Mine That Bird, a horse that was privately purchased after racing in Canada sprung a major upset beneath the Twin Spires.
Seaneen Girl, the longest shot in a field of nine 2-year-old fillies, rallied from mid-pack to beat 2-1 favorite Gal About Town by a half-length in Saturday’s Grade II, $167,550 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs.
The victory, worth $99,726, gave new owner Naveed Chowhan and 72-year-old trainer Bernie Flint their second Golden Rod triumph – they teamed to win the 2004 renewal with Runway Model – and an immediate return on their investment.
Seaneen Girl, ridden by Miguel Mena, clocked 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.95 over a track rated “fast” while winning the Golden Rod, which served as the co-feature of 12 juvenile races that comprised Churchill Downs’ eighth annual “Stars of Tomorrow II” program.
As Pow Wow Wow set the early pace of :23.85 for the first quarter mile and :48.33 for the half, Seaneen Girl rated in fifth position about three lengths off the lead. She took closer order on the final turn and shifted to the outside to engage Gal About Town, who took over the lead at the top of the stretch. With an eighth of a mile to run, Seaneen Girl put her nose in front and proved best in the prolonged drive.
At odds of 31-1, Seaneen Girl was the highest-priced winner of the Golden Rod in 50 years (Sequent was a stakes-record 96-1 winner in 1962). She paid $64, $21.60 and $9.20. Gal About Town, ridden by Jesus Castanon, returned $4.20 and $3.40. Liberated was another five lengths back in third under Jon Court and paid $4.80. Cloudy Vow was fourth.
The 69th running of the Golden Rod is one of 35 races on the new point-based “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” series that will determine which 14 fillies will have preference for America’s richest race for 3-year-old fillies. The Top 14 point earners nominated to the Oaks at the end of the series will earn a spot in the Kentucky Oaks starting gate.
Points in each race are awarded to the Top 4 finishers. The Golden Rod, part of the 20-race “Kentucky Oaks Prep Season” which continues through mid-February, was worth 10 points for Seaneen Girl and gave her 14 overall, which ranks second to Executiveprivelege’s 14. Earnings in non-restricted stakes races will break all ties. Executiveprivelege has banked $870,000 in such races, while Seaneen Girl has won $143,621.
Gal About Town earned four points for second, Liberated received two points for third and Cloudy Vow notched one point for fourth.
Broken Spell, Danalake, Street of Gold, Pow Wow Wow and Silver Strike completed the order of finish.
Prior to winning the Golden Rod, Seaneen Girl, a 2-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Spring At Last out of the Afternoon Deelites mare Afternoon Krystal, finished second to Spring Venture in the Oct. 6 Mazarine (GIII) at Woodbine. She was purchased from Rolph A. Davis and Robert Tiller, who also trained the filly, for an undisclosed price.
Overall, she has won two of her six starts and $170,197.
GOLDEN ROD QUOTES
Bernie Flint, trainer of Seaneen Girl, winner: “I had my hopes for her and I didn’t realize her odds were 30-1. I thought she was second in a Grade III last time, but apparently she was under the radar. She sure came through like a good one.”
Q. How did you end up with this horse (previously trained by Robert Tiller at Woodbine)? “I saw a couple of the Spring At Last’s run that I really liked and I was looking for one. I saw this filly run in Canada and a guy called me and told me she was for sale. I had to go right away to Canada if I wanted her, so I jumped on a plane and went to Canada, checked her out and then came back home the same day. It was pretty hard to do for an old man. (Robert Tiller) did an excellent job of breaking this filly and brining her around. He should get some credit.”
Q. And you were thinking Seaneen Girl could run on dirt? “The trainer (Robert Tiller) didn’t have a chance to run her on the dirt. Where I come from, from Louisiana, they run on everything: dirt, grass, the works. So, I trained her like a dirt horse.
Q. Does today’s win have you thinking about the Kentucky Oaks? “I know one thing, if she stays the way she is, she’ll be fine. She’ll come on in the spring really good. We’re going to go down to Louisiana and I’ll probably get a whole van just for her.”
Q. How would you compare her to (2004 Golden Rod winner) Runway Model? “She’s very much like her. She’s laid back and she’s not a big, imposing filly, but she’s extremely sound and when she trains, whatever you want her to do she’ll do. If you want her to breeze, she’ll breeze. If you want her to gallop, she’ll gallop. She’s just a nice horse all around.
Miguel Mena, jockey on Seaneen Girl, winner: “I had a great trip. The filly broke good and we saved ground on both turns. We stalked the favorite (Gal About Town) and I waited as long as I could. She was game.”
Q. Did you think you had a chance with this filly at 31-1? “I worked this filly twice and she worked very good. I told several people, ‘I’ve got the winner in this race.’ I had a lot of confidence in her.”
Bret Calhoun, trainer of Gal About Town, runner-up as 2-1 favorite: “She’s a very, very strange filly in the fact that she’s very insecure. She has to have a training partner at all times. She has to have somebody to gallop with her and she has to have somebody work with her. She came from the farm that way and she’s made great improvements, but the key is to have a target for her. We’ve struggled to get her back off the pace, because she’s doing it so easy. On the turn, it looked she owned ‘em – she was going very easy. But when she gets in front like that she completely gets lost and loses her focus. I really believe that if we could ever get a horse that would carry her to the eighth pole or the 16th pole, I think she’d have gone right on and drew off. She’s making progress, but she’s just not there – she hasn’t put it all together mentally. But she’s come a long from where she started.
“She’ll come down to New Orleans. I’m really not sure what we’ll do with her, but she run in that series of races here.”
Jesus Castanon, rider on Gal About Town, runner-up as 2-1 favorite: “She was cruising along really fine and I was in the right spot in the first part of the race. I was very happy with it. When I asked to kick-in, she gave me a nice kick and she finished up really strong, but the other ran past us. She really gave me all she had and I’m happy with that."
Vicki Oliver, trainer of Liberated, third: “She ran super. I think she was just as good as the 1-2 horses, but she just had the rougher trip of everyone. She missed the break. She kind of got hit by the outside horse and then we ended up coming about 10-wide. When those two already got clear and you’re 10-wide, you’re running sideways and they’re running forward. But I think she’s a really nice filly, but it would have been nice to have that win for her."
Jon Court, jockey on Liberated, third: “She just got a bad break. The ground broke away from her and I immediately went over and saved ground. But when turned for home she was behind a wall of horses and I had to swing wide. She made her run, but she was just third-best today with the trip we had.”
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