Gam’s Mission ran down pacesetter Dalika (GER) in the homestretch to score a 1 ¼-length victory in Sunday’s 46th running of the $193,350 Old Forester Mint Julep Stakes (Grade III) at Churchill Downs.
Gam’s Mission, trained by Cherie DeVaux and ridden by Adam Beschizza, ran 1 1/16 miles on “firm” turf in 1:43.53.
Dalika (GER) led the field of 10 fillies and mares throughout the early stages of the races through quarter-mile splits of :24.22, :48.68 and 1:13.10 as Gam’s Mission relaxed in in seventh down the backstretch. Entering the turn, Gam’s Mission began to move into contention with a wide move, drew even with the leader at the final furlong-marker and inched clear in the final 100 yards for the win.
“She’s a war horse,” said Beschizza, who also won the 2019 Mint Julep aboard Mom’s On Strike. “She’s very tough but this filly is all heart. She probably prefers a little cut in the ground and it was pretty fast today. She was able to overcome that and win very nicely. We thought she’d be sitting on a big run today and was doing well with just a couple of easy gallops into today’s race.”
Gam’s Mission returned $8.20, $4.40 and $3.80. Dalika (GER), under Ricardo Santana Jr., paid $6.40 and $5. Take Charge Ro, with James Graham up, was another 1 ¼ lengths back in third and paid $8.80 to show.
It was another neck back to 5-2 favorite Petricor (GB) in fourth, who was followed by Hendy Woods, Waliyak (FR), Market Rumor, Keeper of Time (GB), Lake Lucerne and Ambassador Luna.
This was the second graded stakes win for Gam’s Mission, who won last year’s Regret Stakes (GIII) at Churchill Downs a year ago. She joins the Kenny-McPeek-trained Bizzy Caroline (2011-12) as the only fillies to complete the Regret/Mint Julep double in successive years.
“Adam did a great job with her getting to settle from off the pace,” DeVaux said. “She was a little bit farther back than normal but that was just sort of how the race unfolded today with (Dalika) on the front end. I’m really pleased with her effort to close that strongly.”
The $118,075 first prize jumped Gam’s Mission’s earnings to $448,708 with a record of 4-3-0 in 10 starts, including three wins in four starts over the Matt Winn Turf Course. She is owned by Lazy F Ranch’s Cornelia G. Corbett.
Gam’s Mission is a 4-year-old homebred daughter of Noble Mission (GB) out of the War Pass mare Auntie Martha and was bred in Kentucky.
WEDNESDAY RACING RETURNS TO CHURCHILL DOWNS – Following traditional dark days on Monday and Tuesday, Spring Meet racing at Churchill Downs will resume Wednesday with a nine-race program at 12:45 p.m. (all times Eastern).
Wednesday racing has been added to the final four weeks of the nine-week Spring Meet: June 8, June 15, June 22 and June 29.
Twilight Thursdays continue at 5 p.m. with an eight-race card complemented by $2 select domestic can beer, food trucks and music on the Plaza stage by Southern Sirens.
Friday is Senior Day, which offers a $26 premium dining ticket in Millionaires Row/Skye Terrace for guests age 60 and up.
Saturday’s 11-race card will showcase a simulcast of the Belmont Stakes from Belmont Park, and the on-track feature is the $160,000 Mighty Beau Overnight Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at five furlongs on turf.
Sunday’s centerpiece is the 25th running of the $225,000 Matt Winn Stakes (Grade III) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles. It’s also Military Appreciation Day, which means active and retired military can receive free general admission or purchase a $32 premium dining ticket in Millionaires Row/Skye Terrace.
Also on Sunday, there will be a mandatory payout in the 20-cent Derby City 6 with all monies distributed to ticket holders with the most winners in the six-race series. The jackpot carryover, which is $272,577 for Wednesday, will be paid if there is a single winning ticket Wednesday-Saturday. If it’s not hit, bettors with the most winners in the six-race sequence will have a chance to share in a massive pool of the carryover and new money on Sunday.
The first race Friday-Sunday is 12:45 p.m.
OLD FORESTER MINT JULEP QUOTES
Adam Beschizza (jockey, Gam’s Mission, winner) – “She’s a war horse. She’s very tough but this filly is all heart. She probably prefers a little cut in the ground and it was pretty fast today. She was able to overcome that and win very nicely. We thought she’d be sitting on a big run today and was doing well with just a couple of easy gallops into today’s race.”
Cherie DeVaux (trainer, Gam’s Mission, winner) – “Adam (Beschizza) did a great job with her getting to settle from off the pace. She was a little bit farther back than normal but that was just sort of how the race unfolded today with (Dalika) on the front end. I’m really pleased with her effort to close that strongly.”
Al Stall Jr. (trainer, Dalika, runner-up) – “We were really excited today to get her back to the track. I thought her race today was a really nice comeback. This should set her up for a nice second-half of the year.”