Stronach Stables' homebred Holy Helena got back on the firm turf she prefers and responded with her first victory of 2019 in Saturday's Grade 3 The Very One Stakes at Gulfstream Park, running down 24-1 frontrunner Ickymasho in the final sixteenth of a mile to win by a neck. Off as the 2-1 favorite, the 5-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper teamed with Irad Ortiz, Jr. to cover 1 3/16 miles over the firm turf in 1:54.20. The millionaire and Queen's Plate-winning mare is trained by Jimmy Jerkens.
A disappointing sixth over a yielding turf in the Jan. 26 La Prevoyante (G3), Holy Helena defended her title in the The Very One as the 2-1 favorite while benefiting from a perfectly executed ride by Irad Ortiz Jr.
The 5-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper saved ground while rated in third behind front-running Ickymasho, who set uncontested fractions of 23.89 and 49.31 seconds for the first half mile and continued to show the way into the far turn. Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Ickymasho sprinted clear of her rivals leaving the turn into the homestretch, where Holy Helena cut the corner into the stretch. The 24-1 pacesetter kicked on through the stretch but was unable to hold off Holy Helena by a neck while finishing four lengths clear of Semper Senentiae.
Holy Helena, who captured last year's The Very One by 1 ¾ lengths under Ortiz, registered the fifth stakes success of her career, which includes a triumph over boys in the $1 million Queen's Plate at Woodbine in 2017.
Trainer James Jerkens (Holy Helena): “She had only run four weeks ago a mile and a half on soft turf, but she's a good doer, especially for a filly. She had three decent works in between her last race and she handled it well. I think she looks terrific physically, so I was very confident today, I really was.”
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. (Holy Helena): “Last time she broke a step slow and we were too far back. So we tried to break good and get good position. She was closer today and when I asked her to go she was there. We were going slow today, the pace was very slow. We were close to the lead. I tried to hold my position. With the slow pace, I turned her loose a little earlier because it's hard to catch some horses when they go that slow.”
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