by Keith McCalmont
Sacred Wish, expertly piloted by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, stalked and pounced to a 1 1/4-length score in Friday’s $135,000 Winter Memories, a one-mile inner turf test for sophomore fillies, at Belmont at the Big A.
Owned by Black Type Thoroughbreds, Swinbank Stables, Steve Adkisson, Christopher Dunn and Anthony Spinazzola, the Not This Time dark bay made her turf debut a winning one for trainer George Weaver. The talented Sacred Wish was a game second in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks in July at Saratoga Race Course, taking the lead in the stretch run before being collared at the wire by Wet Paint. Following a distant seventh in the Spa's Grade 1 Alabama presented by Keeneland Sales on August 19, Sacred Wish worked twice over the Oklahoma training turf in preparation for Friday's test.
“This was her fist time running on turf but we breezed her once on it at Belmont [in July] and she breezed excellent,” said Blair Golen, Weaver’s New York-based assistant. “Normally, after her breezes on the dirt, she’ll just ease herself back down on her own. But the times we breezed her on the turf, she gallops herself out. She grabs on the bridle and keeps going.
“She’s a lovely filly to be around,” added Golen. “She’s excellent with everything we do with her and I’m just happy that we have her.”
Lady Beth, with Flavien Prat aboard, dictated terms from post 9 through splits of 23.47 seconds and 48.04 over the firm footing with the Joel Rosario-piloted Silver Skillet tracking from second position to the inside of Get Your Kicks as Sacred Wish saved ground in fifth to the inside of Sweetlou’sgotaces.
Velazquez remained patient aboard Sacred Wish as Lady Beth marked three-quarters in 1:12.03 and led the field through the final turn with a host of challengers lining up, including Silver Skillet and the late-running Soviet Excess, who advanced from ninth to fifth position by the stretch call with 4 1/2-lengths to make up under Dylan Davis.
Sacred Wish and Silver Skillet each found their best stride late in the lane, moving in tandem to overtake the tiring Lady Beth inside the final sixteenth, but it was Sacred Wish that finished best to secure the win in a final time of 1:35.46. Silver Skillet completed the exacta by a half-length over the late charge of Soviet Excess, who completed the trifecta by head over Liguria.
It was a neck back to Lady Beth in fifth with Tax Implications, Junipermarshmallow, Sweetlou’sgotaces, Bolivie and Get Your Kicks rounding out the order of finish. Neecie Marie and Stephanie’s Charm – who will contest Saturday’s Grade 3, $350,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational here – were scratched along with Lifelovenlaughter, Plentitude and main-track only entrants Balpool and Ichiban.
Velazquez said he felt comfortable throughout.
“Perfect trip. She broke well and got behind the leaders in there,” Velazquez said. “I bided my time and followed Joel Rosario’s horse [Silver Skillet], which was one of the horses to beat. She gave me a great trip.”
Rosario said the Christophe Clement-conditioned Silver Skillet, who entered from a rallying stakes score over fellow New York-breds in August in the Spa’s Suzie O’Cain, was game in defeat.
“She ran really well. It looked like for a second we were going to come and get it, but that horse [Sacred Wish] finished quick outside,” Rosario said. “It was a good race for her. She tries really hard all the time and gives everything she’s got. It was a different pace today, but she still finished.”
Sacred Wish launched her career with trainer Lynn Chleborad and owner Spinazzola, graduating at second asking in March at Oaklawn Park before the current connections bought in to the filly in time for a rallying runner-up effort in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks in April on debut for Weaver.
The dark bay endured a troubled trip when ninth in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan in May at Pimlico but returned to form when second against older optional-claiming company in June at Belmont Park. Sacred Wish exited that effort into her Saratoga Grade 1 tries in the CCA Oaks and Alabama.
Out of the Indian Charlie mare Indian Wish, the $50,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale purchase is a half-sister to Wishful Winking, who won traveling the Winter Memories distance over the Santa Anita Park turf in 2016.
“She had worked great on grass and she has some grass breeding. It’s always a mystery whether or not they’ll take to it, but she sure did," said Rich Martino of Black Type Thoroughbreds. "She went straight into the Gulfstream Park Oaks after only two races. She’s taken a lot of big steps already. I couldn’t be happier.”
Bred in Kentucky by John R. Penn, Sacred Wish banked $74,250 in victory while improving her record to 8-2-3-1. She returned $11.80 for a $2 win bet.
Live racing resumes Saturday at Belmont at the Big A with a 10-race card featuring the Grade 3, $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Jockey Club Oaks Invitational in Race 9. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
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