Phipps Stable's Carrumba proved very game in a half-length victory over Mei Ling in Sunday's Grade 3 Top Flight Invitational Handicap at Aqueduct, rescheduled from last weekend after high winds cancelled Sunday's card. The 4-year-old daughter of Bernardini covered the nine furlongs in 1:50.26 for trainer Shug McGaughey.
“Everything was great,” said Robbie Medina, assistant to McGaughey. “She broke really sharp and she'll go anywhere you want but he [Ortiz] really put her in good position letting Todd's filly [Mei Ling] go to the lead. She relaxed nice and at the three-eighths pole went after Todd's filly, and she put up a really good fight. She just kind of put her away the last sixteenth of a mile.”
Mei Ling broke the sharpest under Manny Franco, striding out to a one-length lead while Carrumba stalked from second. Jose Ortiz kept Carrumba in contention through fractions of :25.22 and :49.16, allowing her to move up the outside and eyeball Mei Ling nearing the three-quarters pole. By the top of the lane, Carrumba had thrust her head in front, but the two continued to duel all the way down to the wire, with Carrumba just extending that lead to a half-length by the wire. America finished third, over 16 lengths behind the winner.
“I was very confident down the backside, but I was a little surprised that Mei Ling [No. 3] fought me as hard as she did in the home stretch,” said Ortiz. “But I rode her last time and she's a fighter too, I knew she'd fight a little bit because we went easy early. She [Mei Ling] got away from me a little, but I knew I could catch her. Mr. Shug McGaughey and his assistant Robbie did a great job bringing her back at 100% from her long layoff, and I think that's why we got the win.”
Bred in Kentucky by her owners, Carrumba is out of a daughter of El Prado. The filly marked her first graded stakes victory in the Top Flight, and improved her career record to five wins from eight starts with total earnings of over $475,000.
“Absolutely this win was emotional,” said Ogden Phipps, II., son of Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps. “Our first time back at the races and it's obviously a big part of how we grew up with my Dad. Coming back here and seeing a filly that he really loved and winning a stake is very emotional. Every time one of our horses runs in his colors I think it's going to be emotional for us.”
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