05/20/2016 4:57PM

Ahh Chocolate doesn't let cut stop her in duPont Distaff

Kim Pratt
Ahh Chocolate wins the Allaire duPont Distaff under Brian Hernandez Jr. on Friday at Pimlico.

BALTIMORE - Ahh Chocolate wore down a classy rival who got away with an easy pace, and then held off a flying challenger and hit the wire victorious in the Grade 3, $150,000 Allaire duPont Distaff Friday at Pimlico. 

But it was only as she jogged back that the true bravery of her effort became apparent, as the filly was bleeding steadily from a cut on the outside of her right front knee. Trainer Neil Howard and an attending veterinarian briefly examined Ahh Chocolate, who was allowed to participate in the winner's circle ceremony before walking home under her own power.

Howard said he believes the wound is superficial.

“When you get these cuts and scrapes in races mixed in with the dirt and the sand, it always looks worse than it is," he said. "I put my fingers in as much as I could. I didn't see anything, but we’ll have to look.”

Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. said Ahh Chocolate was moving soundly throughout, and that he didn't know where the mishap might have occurred.

“We had a beautiful trip,” Hernandez said. "She left there on the button today. She was just where we needed to be.

"I don't know when it would have happened. She left there so smoothly, she never got bounced around at any point."

Ahh Chocolate ($9) sat in fourth early, about two lengths back, as graded-stakes-winning sprinter Super Majesty took the field through an easy half of 48.75 in the 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares. Ahh Chocolate looped up on the leader outside horses as the field rounded the far turn, but Super Majesty still held a length lead with just over a quarter-mile to run.

“I got a little nervous going around the second turn,” Hernandez said.

Ahh Chocolate reeled in the leader and assumed command approaching the eighth pole. Theogony, who had been last early, furiously rallied on the outside, but missed by a half-length as Ahh Chocolate stopped the clock in 1:50.82. It was another three-quarters of a length back to Joint Return, who rallied from well back to edge Super Majesty by a neck for third. 

Ahh Chocolate won the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap in her 2015 finale and now owns a second graded victory. She had been third in both of her starts this year, the Esplanade Stakes at Fair Grounds and the Grade 3 Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland.

“I was impressed," Howard said. "I know she's a nice filly, but I thought I saw another dimension in her today, because that was a tough race.”

Howard's visits to Pimlico are fairly rare. He has now won five times from just 18 starts here since 1979. Four of those wins came in stakes - the 1990 Preakness with Summer Squall, the 2003 Pimlico Special with Mineshaft, the 2014 Sir Barton Stakes with Class Leader, and now the DuPont with Ahh Chocolate, who was stabled in Mineshaft's old stall in the stakes barn this week.

“She has trained here like nobody's money,” Howard said.