StarLadies Racing and Lisa Troutt's Eskenformoney made her last career start a memorable one, running down Verve's Tale in deep stretch before taking the lead in the final jumps to win the 23rd running of the $200,000 Turnback the Alarm Handicap on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Eskenformoney, the 121-pound highweight, stayed off the fractions set by 3-5 favorite Miss Sky Warrior, who went the opening quarter-mile in 23.14 seconds with the half in 45.86 on a fast main track. Out of the turn, Verve's Tale took the lead, with Miss Sky Warrior fading in her first start since the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.
But Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez set Eskenformoney down under a drive, surging from the outside to overtake her rival right before the wire, completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.12 to win by a head.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Eskenformoney made her 28th and final start before the Fasig-Tipton November sale on November 6. The 5-year-old daughter of Eskendereya finished her career with five wins, including the head-bobbing finish on Big Sandy.
“I thought with 60 or 70 yards left she wasn't going to get there, but she really surged the last part,” Pletcher said. I thought the race was unfolding really well and she was getting a good trip and she was resolute until the end. We had a pretty favorable post position. It left us with a lot of options.
“Sometimes she doesn't break real alertly but it kind of helped us when they went pretty quickly up front and Johnny gave a great ride,” he added. “She's been a great filly for us, very consistent. [She's] a real sweetheart to train.”
Off at 7-2, Eskenformoney paid $9.20 on a $2 win bet. The Kentucky bred increased her career earnings to $757,616.
“They were rolling along in the first part, but once I got into the position I wanted, I actually wanted to be right behind [Verve's Tale] and I was kind of hiding behind her the whole time,” Velazquez said. “But on the turn I was riding a long way. I haven't ridden this horse since the second time she ran, I was thinking, 'man, I am working her really hard and she is not going anywhere,' so I kept after her and made sure she stayed a little close and didn't have to do too much.
“When the quarter pole came, she swept down the lane and I thought she had more to get to the other horse, but then she kind of backed up from where I wanted to be. And then the last sixteenth of a mile she decided to run.”
Verve's Tale, who was vying for her first graded stakes win since the 2016 Grade 3 Comely, was the runner-up, outlasting Birdatthewire by 4 ½ lengths.
Miss Sky Warrior, who was coming off a nearly six-month break since running eighth in the Kentucky Oaks for trainer Kelly Breen, finished fourth. Indian Point and A Place to Shine completed the order of finish.
Tejana was scratched.
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