COURTESY OF THE BLOODHORSE MAGAZINE - BY BOB EHALT
Blue Devil Racing Stable's Come Dancing had a ball on the front end with jockey Manny Franco as the 5-year-old mare grabbed the lead at the start and never looked back in posting a lopsided 7 3/4-length victory April 5 in the $150,000 Distaff Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Coming off a neck loss in the Go For Wand Stakes (G3) at a mile in December, the cut back suited Come Dancing ($10.60) perfectly in the seven-furlong stakes for fillies and mares. The Kentucky-bred maintained a clear lead through easy fractions of :23.40 and :46.68 and then pulled away with gusto in the stretch to kick clear of runner-up Pacific Gale.
Watching the race, winning trainer Carlos Martin felt the mare had some help from above in carving out the moderate fractions.
"Manny is a great rider, and he rode a great race. Obviously, when she broke on top, he went on with it, and when I saw her go :23 4/5, I was looking up at the sky saying, 'God bless my father (Jose Martin) and grandfather (Hall of Famer Frank 'Pancho' Martin).' Being a third-generation trainer, I wondered if they were looking over me with those fractions. It was a special moment."
Final time was 1:22.31 for Come Dancing, who carried 118 pounds and increased her earnings to $339,200.
"She put her ears up right away," Franco said. "That was the key. She put her ears up, and I knew that I had a lot of horse under me."
The victory was the fifth in nine starts for the homebred daughter of Malibu Moon but her first in a graded stakes. Out of the Tiznow mare Tizahit, her previous stakes win came Sept. 9 in the Royal Delta Stakes at Belmont Park over a sloppy racetrack.
Tobey L. Morton's Pacific Gale took a run at Come Dancing leaving the quarter pole but was no match for the winner in the stretch.
"We had a perfect trip," said Joe Bravo, who rode Pacific Gale, "but, wow, did we run into a buzz saw today."
Nevertheless, the 26-1 shot finished a comfortable 6 1/4 lengths ahead of Stonestreet Stables' 2-1 second choice and 119-pound highweight Dawn the Destroyer, who was a well-beaten third. Holiday Disguise, winner of last year's Distaff, was fifth.
Kathryn the Wise, the 9-5 favorite, was sixth in the field of seven, 26 lengths behind Come Dancing.
*As of May 4, 2019 - Come Dancing's Beyer of 114 in the Distaff is the year's highest among all NA Thoroughbreds.
DISTAFF STAKES - COME DANCING - APRIL 5th, 2019