The filly Rills showed she can more than keep up with an older crowd on the way to a wire-to-wire win in the $50,000 Contrary Rose Stakes yesterday at Laurel Park.
The Kentucky-bred Rills is the daughter of Clever Trick, whose offspring also include Favorite Trick. A year after becoming the first 2-year-old since Secretariat to win horse of the year, Favorite Trick essentially disappeared during the Triple Crown season. Some critics said Favorite Trick simply lacked the breeding to go long.
Rills, now 3, didn't run as a 2-year-old last year, so she was never saddled with the great expectations that racing fans had for her well-known kin. Her abilities as a route racer haven't been thoroughly tested: only once in her 13-race career has Rills been asked to go longer than six furlongs, and in that outing she lost by 20 lengths.
Heading into the six-furlong Contrary Rose Stakes, trainer H. Graham Motion wasn't worried by the distance, but by the age and experience of the competitors Rills would be facing. She was the youngest and most lightly raced entrant, and had never before run a stakes race against mares.
"She's been training very well, but it's a big test when you've been going against fields of straight 3-year-olds and then you're thrown in with the older horses," said Motion, who is atop the trainer standings for the current meet at Laurel Park.
Motion quickly realized his worries were unfounded. Jockey Alberto Delgado kept Rills off the rail coming out of the gate, but he had no luck keeping her off the lead.
Once Rills got to the front of the pack, youth overcame inexperience. By the end of the turn, Rills had a four-length lead over her elders, which she maintained to the wire.
"I wanted to lay about third [early in the race]," Delgado said. "But she broke sharply and it seemed as if nobody wanted the lead.
"Turning for home, it felt as if she still had plenty left. I looked back and saw some closers coming at me, but at that point, I just said, 'Forget about it.' I knew it was over."
Rills finished in 1 minute 9 3/5 seconds and paid $12.20. Passeggiata, a 6-year-old Argentina-bred sprint specialist, was second.
Laurel Park Notes: Despite abandoning Maryland racing for greener pastures in July, Edgar Prado might retain his state riding title. Prado, currently racing in Florida, posted 233 wins before his departure. With 19 live racing days left in Maryland, only Mario Pino has a realistic shot of dethroning Prado. Pino got to the winner's circle once on yesterday's card, aboard long shot Royal's Quest in the last race. It was his 219th victory in Maryland this year.