More than two years after his passing, influential advertising executive and successful Thoroughbred owner and breeder William M. Backer was represented in the winner's circle Saturday by a horse he bred winning her stakes debut in a race named in his honor.
Hat Creek Racing's Paulita ($3.40) stalked pacesetter Secret Or Not for a half-mile before putting that rival away and turning back a late charge from multiple stakes winner Queen Caroline in the $75,000 William M. Backer Stakes at Laurel Park.
The Backer and the $75,000 Camptown at 5 ½ furlongs, both for fillies and mares 3 and up, were among four stakes worth $300,000 in purses for Virginia-bred/sired horses on the 10-race Commonwealth Day program.
All four stakes were forced off Laurel's world-class turf course due to heavy overnight rain and switched to a fast main track. Ridden by Daniel Centeno for trainer Arnaud Delacour, Paulita completed one mile in 1:38.23.
Secret Or Not and jockey Horacio Karamanos were intent on the lead and took the field through a quarter-mile in 24.37 seconds and a half in 48.38 as Centeno kept Paulita in the clear two wide. Paulita, entered for main track only, moved to even terms on the far turn and took over the top spot after six furlongs in 1:13.43, when Queen Caroline launched a bid on the outside.
Paulita had plenty left to repel the challenge and hit the wire two lengths in front, with Queen Caroline 5 ¼-lengths ahead of Secret Or Not in third. Complete St. and Street Miz completed the order of finish.
A 3-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy bred by the William M. Backer Revocable Trust, Paulita had made her first four starts for trainer Chad Brown, graduating in an off-the-turf maiden special weight May 12 at Monmouth Park.
“I talked to Arnaud. He didn't have too much time with her so he really didn't know her well,” Centeno said. “He said breaking from the outside, do whatever you want to get a good position. It looks like there's no speed, so if she breaks good let her go to the lead if nobody goes.
“I saw Karamanos send and it was perfect for me. I sat outside and had a good trip,” he added. “At the eighth pole I looked and saw [Queen Caroline] coming and when I looked back at my horse, when she felt [Queen Caroline] next to her she re-broke and opened up again in the last sixteenth.”
Paulita, out of the Not For Love mare Blind Date, was foaled Feb. 14, 2015. Backer, best known for creating the iconic 'I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke' campaign in 1971, died in May 2016 at the age of 89. Blind Date, winner of the 2009 Virginia Oaks (G3), was among his best horses.
Virginia-bred/sired fillies and mares 3 and up going a distance will complete their series at Laurel with the $75,000 Brookmeade Stakes, contested at 1 1/8 miles, Sept. 22.
Purchased for $205,000 at Fasig-Tipton's summer horses of racing age sale last month, Susan Moulton's Altamura paid immediate dividends for her new connections with a front-running 1 ¼-length victory in the $75,000 Camptown.
Racing first time for Chicago-based trainer Wayne Catalano and with Midwest journeyman Channing Hill aboard, Altamura ($9.80) pushed her win streak to three races, all over older horses, the last two in stakes. The winning time for 5 ½ furlongs was 1:03.78.
Altamura, a late-running winner of the M. Tyson Gilpin Stakes for Virginia-bred/sired horses on the turf June 23 at Laurel, broke sharply from the rail and put herself on the lead stalked to her outside by Up Hill Battle, the 3-2 favorite, through fractions of 22.37 and 45.30 seconds.
The leaders rounded the far turn and headed for home together until Altamura found another gear in mid-stretch after running five furlongs in 57.32. What the Beep got up for second, 2 ¾ lengths ahead of Up Hill Battle, also third in the Gilpin. They were followed by Sister Says, Do What I Say, Gilpin runner-up Virginia Fable, defending Camptown champion Northern Eclipse and Well Blessed.
“It definitely wasn't the strategy. I thought there was quite a bit of speed in here,” Hill said. “She broke so well I just kind of let her carry us with [Up Hill Battle] right outside of us. Obviously, I wasn't going to take back from there.
“I was happy how much she kicked for home because I had to use her a little bit around the turn just to kind of keep my spot down in there and she really punched home nice,” he added. “This is a nice filly. I was wondering why they bought her, and now I know why.”
With the win Altamura improved to a perfect 3-0 at Laurel, having scored in a maiden special weight June 15, also at 5 ½ furlongs on the grass. The $75,000 Oakley for Virginia-bred/sired fillies and mares 3 and up will be run Sept. 22 at Laurel.
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