Gary and Mary West’s West Coast Belle tracked the pacesetters, grabbed the lead at the eighth pole and turned back a late challenge by No Fault of Mine to win Saturday’s 71st running of the $230,400 Golden Rod (Grade II) at Churchill Downs by 1 ¼ lengths. .
West Coast Belle, the 8-5 favorite in the field of 12 two-year-old fillies trained by Wayne Catalano, ran 1 1/16 miles over a track rated “fast” in 1:45.52. Shaun Bridgmohan rode his second straight Golden Rod winner after taking last year’s renewal aboard Vexed.
The Golden Rod, which was worth $132,849 to the winning connections, completed a Fall Meet sweep of the $62,768 Rags to Riches on Oct. 26 and Golden Rod for West Coast Belle, a homebred for the Wests that is unbeaten in three starts with earnings of $190,446.
Simply Confection, Cristina’s Journey and Ancient Goddess-FR battled for the early lead and took the field of 12 two-year-old fillies through quarter-mile fractions of :23.73, :47.50 and 1:13.26. West Coast Belle was well positioned and tracked from fifth on the outside midway down the backstretch.
Simply Confection was the first to fold as West Coast Belle commenced her winning move midway around the turn. Ancient Goddess-FR grabbed the lead from Pocahontas (GII) winner and 3-1 second choice Cristina’s Journey at the head of the stretch but the closers were coming.
West Coast Belle, who swept around the competition six-wide, had first jump on her rallying rivals, took command with an eighth of a mile to run and never relented down the stretch.
West Coast Belle, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Tapit out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Splendid Solution, paid $5.20, $3.40 and $2.80. Chicago-invader No Fault of Mine, who rallied from second-to-last under Ricardo Santana Jr., returned $5 and $3.40 as the third-betting choice. Heart’s Song, another who raced near the rear early on under Brian Hernandez Jr., was another 6 ¼ lengths back of the runner-up in third and paid $6.
I’m a Chatterbox, Jojo’s Melody, Ancient Goddess-FR, Cristina’s Journey, Martz, Carta de Oro, Simply Confection, Seeking Paradise and Kathballu completed the order of finish.
The Golden Rod is one of 31 races on the “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 next spring. West Coast earned 10 points for the win. No Fault of Mine earned four for second, Heart’s Song earned two for third and I’m a Chatterbox notched one point for fourth.
This has been a breakout year for Catalano at Churchill Downs. The Golden Rod was his third win of the day, which pulled him even with Dale Romans for Churchill Downs’ leading trainer honors at 13 wins apiece with 14 races left to be run. In September, he won his first local training title.
The Wests pulled one ahead of local kingpins Ken and Sarah Ramsey for leading owner honors, 12 to 11.
GOLDEN ROD QUOTES
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, jockey of WEST COAST BELLE (winner): “I had a perfect trip. You know Wayne (Catalano) and his crew did a phenomenal job and congratulations to the Wests for having a nice filly. I had a perfect ideal trip. I just had to sit there until it was time to go, press the button and she was all professional. Very nice filly. I waited until I was turning for home and I asked her and that’s when she leveled out, and she went on about her business.”
WAYNE CATALANO, trainer of WEST COAST BELLE (winner): “She had run a nice race. The way it worked out, she got the flat mile and she goes to two turns and everything fell into place for her. It’s always good when a plan comes together, right?
“She will probably go to New Orleans and we got some races for her in Hot Springs. She’ll be at New Orleans and Hot Springs this season.
“She gets better all the time. She’s got a good brain and everything like that. So we’re really happy with her.”
GARY WEST, co-owner of WEST COAST BELLE (winner): “[She’s] a homebred and that makes it even extra special, yes it does.
“Shaun (Bridgmohan) said she really is push-button; she’ll just relax and go when it’s time to go. She’s always been a really smart filly. We’ve never really had any problem with her. Shaun said she really is a push-button filly.
“Well we’ve never had any problems with her ever since she was foaled out and the mare just nicked real well with Tapit and at the time we bred to Tapit he wasn’t the hot sire that he is today. But we’re happy to have a filly by Tapit right now who is a Grade II winner and we still own the mare (Splendid Solution). So that helps the mare a great deal. We’ll keep the mare; we’re racing people. We don’t sell a lot; we breed mostly to race.”
Q: Thinking about the Kentucky Oaks? “Well you think about it but it’s a little too early to think about too hard. There are a lot of things that go on between here and there, and we’ve had a lot of good horses at this point in time and we ended up with a lot of heart breaks along the trail. It’s just a matter of keeping her sound and healthy.”
CHRIS BLOCK, trainer of NO FAULT OF MINE (runner-up), via telephone from Chicago: “She ran real well. I was pleased with that. She had a wide trip and had to come from way back off of it. I think if I’d had a race in between that race at Arlington and here it might have been a little different. Nonetheless, that was a good filly that beat her and I thought she ran really well.”
RICARDO SANTANA JR., jockey on NO FAULT OF MINE (runner-up): “She is such a nice filly. I tried to save ground the best I can. I got her in the clear on the turn and I thought she was going to pass the winner, but she got a little tired. It was her first time going a mile and a sixteenth. If she had run a mile-and-a-sixteenth before, it might have been different. She ran very well.”
BILL CONNELLY, trainer of HEART’S SONG (third): “I thought she ran real well. She got fanned out a little bit at the head of the lane, but other than that she finished willingly and I liked that. That’s the main thing. She just got fanned out at the head of the lane and another horse carried her out a little bit, and it took a little momentum out of her for a second. I don’t think she was going to catch the top two, but she might have been a little better third.”
KENNY McPEEK, trainer of I’M A CHATTERBOX (third) and KATHBALLU (last of 12): “My filly (I’m a Chatterbox) ran well. She just got tired late. The winner is one of the best fillies in the county. I’m not sure what happened with my other filly (Kathballu). Julien (Leparoux) said she just stopped on him.”
CHRIS LANDEROS, jockey on I’M A CHATTERBOX (fourth): “She gave them a good run. She’s still learning and the winner’s a pretty nice horse. I thought I gave her a good run. We just got outrun late. No excuses.”