Jerry Romans’ Sassy Image pulled away from Decelerator in mid-stretch and went on to a 3 3/4-length victory in the 66th running of the $163,200 Golden Rod Stakes (Grade II) for 2-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Robby Albarado and trained by Dale Romans, Sassy Image ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast main track in 1:44.51. The victory was worth $100,172 and raised Sassy Image’s career earnings to $247,689.
Vivid Colors, ridden by Calvin Borel, led the field of six through fractions of :23.30, :47.29 and 1:12.66 with Decelerator in closest pursuit and Sassy Image running fourth but within striking distance. Midway through the far turn, Terry Thompson sent Decelerator after Vivid Colors with Sassy Image on the move just to their outside.
Decelerator hit the top of the stretch with a narrow advantage, but was soon joined by Sassy Image. The two raced on even terms to the eighth pole when Sassy Image began to draw away for her third win in seven starts.
Sassy Image returned $4.60, $2.80 and $2.20 as the favorite. Decelerator paid $4.20 and $2.80 with Upperline finishing another 7 ¼ lengths back in third under E.T. Baird and paying $2.80 to show. Completing the field in order were Vivid Colors, All Due Respect and Canadian Storm.
Sassy Image, who also won the opening-day Pocahontas (GIII) here, is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Broken Vow.
L.T.B. Inc. and Miles Childers’ Sheer Beauty led all the way to win the $61,968 Caressing for 2-year-old fillies by two lengths over Check the Label.
Ridden by Borel for trainer Bernie Flint, Sheer Beauty completed the mile over a firm Matt Winn Turf Course in 1:37.01 in defeating 11 rivals to pick up her second win in three starts. Sheer Beauty increased her earnings to $56,020 with the $37,220 winner’s check.
Sheer Beauty paid $18.20, $8.60 and $6. Check the Label, ridden by Gabriel Saez, returned $5 and $3.60 with Jody Slew finishing a half-length back in third under Jon Court and paying $24.60 to show.
POST-RACE QUOTES – THE GOLDEN ROD
JERRY ROMANS, owner of SASSY IMAGE, winner: “This is so exciting to win the two top graded stakes races for 2-year-old fillies. We grew up here at Churchill Downs so it’s really exciting. We’ll take it one race at a time but, of course, the Kentucky Oaks would be the master plan if she keeps moving forward, stays healthy and keeps doing what she’s doing. She’ll probably get a little time off, go to Florida and shoot for the big spring races.”
ROBBY ALBARADO, jockey of SASSY IMAGE, winner: “The filly (Sassy Image) is great. (Trainer) Dale (Romans) gave me some instruction to keep her a little bit closer today, so I jumped on her out of the gate. We got to settle back on the inside and save some ground. I knew when we got to the top of the stretch she was going to stay the distance. She is a long striding filly that will really improve with the longer races. This is just the type you look for next year in the big races. Dale did such a great job getting this one ready. You have to give him all the credit for this one.”
DALE ROMANS, trainer of SASSY IMAGE, winner: “I think she just improves. The further they go, the better she’s going to get. We always thought that and she’s proven it the last two races. That was a good stretch drive but she put her (Decelerator) away at the end. It was what we were wanting. I was very impressed with her and very happy with her.”
Q: Did her experience help? “Definitely. When you go in these types of races and it gets down to the nitty gritty, the experience pays off. She’s been a very sound horse, she hasn’t missed a dance and she’s done everything we’ve asked of her. I think it really helps.”
Q: Does this get you dreaming of the Kentucky Oaks? “Yeah. We just talked about it, (jockey) Robby (Albarado) and I. That’s got to be our big goal.”
Q: Where does Sassy Image go from here? “We’ll probably go to Gulfstream. I don’t know where yet or what we’ll do with her. She’s had a lot of races so we may give her a little break and give her December and January off. I’ll sit down next week and figure it out.”
D. WAYNE LUKAS, trainer of DECELERATOR, second: “She ran hard and she tries every time. I was pleased with her and thought she ran a really good race. I think if we weren’t pressured we would have been closer, but whether we’d have beat her (Sassy Image) I don’t know. She beat us in the Iroquois the same way.”
Q: She’ll go to Oaklawn with you? “We’ll go there with her. That’s where those people (Westrock Stables) are located, in Little Rock. Until she proves us wrong we’ll keep treating her like an Oaks filly. We’ll certainly nominate her and she’ll go through that series there, then we’ll come back here and see. But that’s a long way off and there’s time for a lot of things to happen.”
TERRY THOMPSON, rider of DECELERATOR, second: “She gave me everything she had. I was able to sit to the top of the stretch and when I called on her, she gave me a heck of a punch. But we just got outrun down the lane. Everything went our way – we just got out-footed late and a nice filly beat us.”
MIKE STIDHAM, trainer of UPPERLINE, third: “Our big concern was whether she was going to handle the dirt and E.T. (Baird) said when he kind of had to set her down for the run, it was breaking away from her. So, we’re happy that she’s Grade II-placed, but I think probably grass and synthetics are going to be more what she needs.”
E.T. BAIRD, rider of UPPERLINE, third: “She was running real comfortable and I was sitting in behind the 1-horse (Sassy Image). She looked like a tough horse and I was just more or less tracking her. But when it came time to set her down, it (the ground) was just kind of breaking from her underneath a little bit. She was real comfortable and when you had her in hand, but you can only go so far doing that. So you had to drop her over and it just kind of broke from her.