Jockey Antonio Gallardo was faced with a decision as the field turned for home in the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf: wait a little longer to unleash Crown and Sugar, or yield to the 4-year-old filly's competitive juices.
Gallardo let her go, and she responded with a two-and-three-quarter length victory from Bitacora, rewarding owner-trainer Darien Rodriguez, who claimed Crown and Sugar for $20,000 here last March.
The victory was the fifth in a row and 11th from 23 starts for the daughter of Crown of Thorns-Sugarlick, by Congrats, who was bred by Woodford Thoroughbreds. Her time for the mile-and-a-sixteenth was 1:41.32.
Supercommittee finished third.
“I was behind two horses, and I saw Joe Bravo (on pace-setter Picara) start asking his horse a little and not really going anywhere,” Gallardo said. “I thought, I can't be waiting for anybody. She wanted to go and she was dragging me to the lead, so I thought, if they catch me, my bad, but she kept running and running and I knew nobody could beat me.”
The winner's share of $60,000 raised Crown and Sugar's earnings to $217,367. She paid $4.80 to win as the betting favorite.
Rodriguez, who ran her against males in her previous start on March 2 because he couldn't find a suitable race against members of her own sex, was cautiously optimistic entering the race.
“She's been running mostly in claiming and starter allowance races, and I didn't know if she could handle this kind of company,” said Rodriguez, who might have been thinking how he just beat two Todd Pletcher-trained runners as well as horses trained by Chad Brown and Mark Casse.
“It was a big step up for her, but she seems to keep getting better. It means a lot because I also own her (under his Sabal Racing Stable banner), and she's been fun from Day 1.”
Crown and Sugar is 6-for-9 under Rodriguez's care, all with Gallardo aboard. She finished first in another race, but was disqualified.
“Antonio knows her so well, the only thing I told him was 'Good luck,' ” said Rodriguez, and she didn't need much of that today.