by NYRA Press Office
The late scratch of morning-line favorite Flirting Bridge and a water-logged inner turf course paved the way for a Chad Brown-trained exacta in the Grade 3, $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack, with Rocky Sky proving narrowly best over her stablemate Capital Structure in the 1 3/8-mile race for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.
A private purchase by owner Peter Brant in 2021, Rocky Sky had yet to register a win in the U.S. before her breakthrough victory in the Waya. The daughter of Rock of Gibraltar began her stateside career with a disappointing eighth-place finish in last summer’s Grade 3 Saratoga Oaks Invitational before hitting the sidelines for the remainder of the year, and while she showed improvement as a 4-year-old, she still wasn’t able to find the winner’s circle from four prior tries in 2022.
The soggy conditions and marathon distance proved to be the difference for Rocky Sky, who took up position in fourth-place early under Manny Franco as longshot Tass led the field through pedestrian splits of 25.31 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 51.26 for the half, 1:18.54 for three-quarters and a mile in 1:43.87 with Coastana perched to her outside in second and Gladys in third.
Tass continued to lead the field into the stretch after completing the final of three turns, but it wasn’t long thereafter that Rocky Sky and Franco took the initiative. Their positional advantage proved to be the difference in the final eighth of a mile as they were able to stave off a late run from Capital Structure, who had lingered in last early as the 8-5 favorite, to prevail by 1 1/4 lengths in a final time of 2:21.42.
“Both horses got pretty good trips,” said Brown. “I was concerned a little bit with Rocky Sky around the turn, but she still kicked on. She’s been a difficult horse to figure out. I cut her back, and then stretched her back out. She had me confused for a while. But it became clear that she did, in fact, want to run three turns today.”
Franco said Rocky Sky responded well to the yielding conditions.
“I think she loved the ground, definitely the soft ground helped her,” said Franco. “I think of the six horses, she was the better going in because she was liking the soft ground. I think putting her close to the pace [helped], because there was not going to be a lot of pace and I wanted to be close and that's what I did. She did the rest.”
The win was Rocky Sky’s third from 10 starts and the dark bay filly returned $9.40 on a $2 win wager. Her earnings now stand at $268,931.
Klaravich Stables' Capital Structure, who made her first graded stakes appearance since the 2020 Grade 1 American Oaks at Del Mar, ran a gallant race to be a clear second best, finishing seven lengths clear of Coastana in third. The sparingly-raced daughter of Lope de Vega had strung together four races already in 2022, including a win at 1 3/8 miles over firm Saratoga turf on July 31.
“I thought she got a nice ground saving trip the whole way,” Brown said of Capital Structure. “It was a nice step up for her into stakes company and getting a graded stakes placing was nice.”
Coastana, who arrived from a close third-place finish in the Grade 2 Flower Bowl at Saratoga where she earned a 96 Beyer Speed Figure, was a narrow second choice in the Waya at 2-1, but the Cherie DeVaux-trained mare had no response for the Brown duo in the stretch. It was another two lengths back to Tass in fourth, who was followed home by Gladys and Lovely Lucky. Flirting Bridge and Flying Fortress were scratched.
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