Marc Keller's Quezon stayed comfortably off the pace before handily gaining the lead in the stretch to cruise to a 4 1/4-length win in the first running of the $100,000 La Verdad for New York-bred filly and mare sprinters in Friday's featured race at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Off as the 3-5 favorite, Quezon stayed in fifth in the six-horse field as Wonderment went to the front, going a quarter-mile in 22.96 seconds and the half in 46.07 with Absatootly challenging from the outside.
Under jockey Joe Rocco, Jr., Quezon gained ground out of the turn before angling three-wide in the stretch to outkick Palladian Bridge and Wonderment, completing seven furlongs in 1:22.67 on the main track labeled fast.
“I was hoping to be in the pocket right behind the leaders. The way that it worked out, I wasn't able to do that, but it worked out good,” Rocco said. “I had plenty of horse and she ran a bang-up race today. She started her run at the top of the stretch and ran on well to the wire. Last time [the Garland of Roses, December 9], she only really ran the last sixteenth [of a mile]. Today, she had more of a prolonged run, but it was nice. I was confident in the filly and she did what we thought she would, so it was great.”
Trained by Bobby Ribaudo, Quezon, who paid $3.40 on a $2 win bet, won her second consecutive stakes start and finished in the money for the sixth straight race and 10th time in the last 11. The 6-year-old Tiz Wonderful mare improved to 18-7-6-2, increasing her career bankroll to $754,200.
“We were very confident going into this,” Ribaudo said. “She was training great. Even with all the missed training over the last couple of weeks, she was able to get enough in. She was doing great. She really kicked on, more so than she did the last time, and basically [against] the same group of horses. We were very happy with the finish. She switched leads again, which was really nice.”
Named for the 2015 Champion Female Sprinter, the La Verdad was originally scheduled to run January 6 but was postponed due to inclement weather.
“I think the cold weather helps [her],” said Ribaudo, who added Quezon could next target the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie on February 17 at Laurel Park. “Last year, she didn't get good until the fall. That was one of the reasons why we kept her here this winter and it looks like it's held true. She can get hot in the paddock and stuff and sometimes she's a wild filly. She even wanted to get a little hot today walking over with the blanket on. But the cold weather really helps her, I think.”
Palladian Bridge, making her first stakes appearance in 10 starts, finished three lengths ahead of Wonderment for second. The Ray Handal trainee notched an on-the-board finish for the fifth straight time.
Bee Noteworthy, Absatootly and She's All Ready completed the order of finish. Holiday Disguise was scratched.
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