Kaleem Shah's homebred American Gal vied for the lead out of the starting gate in Saturday's Grade 1 Humana Distaff, then took over at the head of the lane and kept on through the wire to score by about two lengths under jockey Jose Ortiz. The 4-year-old daughter of Concord Point, trained by Simon Callaghan, covered seven furlongs over the muddy, sealed Churchill Downs main track in 1:22.23. American Gal was sent to post as the co-second choice at 5-2, while favorite Finley'sluckycharm faded to fourth.
“When you're on the outside you have more options and she got the most comfortable trip and she's a very good filly,” Callaghan said. “We were concerned because she's never really run on an off track before but she's just got such a good disposition, such a talented filly, she can go in anything. We've definitely seen a good progression out of the last race. She was on the outside today and last time we got a pretty tough trip with a lot of horses on her outside. This time we were on the outside so just a much better trip. “
Bookending the field, Finley'sluckycharm and American Gal both rushed up to vie for the early lead as they raced down the chute toward the main track. American Gal had broken out a bit awkwardly, but took over the front spot near the six-furlong pole, only to relinquish it to Finley'sluckycharm once again a sixteenth of a mile later. American Gal stayed relaxed for Oritz as Finley'sluckycharm led through a steady first quarter in :23.03, as that pair were tracked by Ivy Bell and Lewis Bay.
On the far turn, Ortiz allowed American Gal to inch forward, approaching even terms with the leader near the quarter pole. Jockey Brian Hernandez was already having to ask for more aboard Finley'sluckycharm, and American Gal claimed the lead as the field straightened for the run to the wire.
Ivy Bell made her bid at the three-sixteenths pole, but could never really put a dent in American Gal's lead. American Gal flashed under the wire about two lengths ahead of Ivy Bell, while Lewis Bay checked in third. Finley'sluckycharm faded to finish fourth.
“She broke a little bit to the outside, but she is very quick, she recovered very well,” Ortiz said. “And I just sit there in the sixth, fifth path. I didn't want anybody putting pressure on me early on the outside, so I stayed as wide as I could on the backside. And then we passed the three-eighths pole, going to the quarter pole I tried to engage Finley'sluckycharm, but I think last time (in the Madison [GI]) he (jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.) was outside putting pressure on me, and today I was outside putting pressure on him and that was the difference from last time to this time. And it worked out for him last time and it worked out for me this time.”
Bred in Kentucky by her owner, American Gal is out of the graded stakes-placed Ghostzapper mare American Story. She won her juvenile debut and a listed stakes before finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. As a 3-year-old, American Gal earned her first Grade 1 win in the Test Stakes at Saratoga. Most recently, she began her 2018 season with a fourth-place finish in Keeneland's G1 Madison, but rebounded to easily win the Humana Distaff. Overall, American Gal has won five of her eight starts for earnings of $900,000.
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