01/01/2015 2:45PM

America takes Affectionately; Belle Gallantey fades

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Irad Ortiz Jr. and America nip Penwith to win the Affectionately on Thursday.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Better late than never for America.

Winless in eight previous stakes attempts, America finally broke through Thursday at Aqueduct, rallying from last under Junior Alvarado to nail Penwith on the wire and win the $100,000 Affectionately Stakes by a nose. Penwith, ridden by Fernando Jara, finished three lengths in front of her Godolphin Racing entrymate, Divided Attention.

Meanwhile, the multiple Grade 1 winner Belle Gallantey, the 3-5 Affectionately favorite, faded to fifth, beaten 5 3/4 lengths.

Belle Gallantey, making her first start since finishing ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, looked light and acted anxious in the paddock. She stalked the pacesetting Penwith until midstretch before fading.

“We were in a good position early,” said Irad Ortiz Jr., the rider of Belle Gallantey, who is trained by Rudy Rodriguez. “My filly came from some time off; maybe she needed the race. She got a little tired in the end. But I think maybe we’ll be all right with her if Rudy brings her back. I’m very positive she’s going to be all right.”

America, a well-bred daughter of A.P. Indy owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay and trained by Bill Mott, may be all right, too. After losing those eight straight stakes races, America won two straight allowance races leading up to the Affectionately.

Last early under Alvarado, America launched a bid entering the far turn and sustained it through the lane. Alvarado said that previously he would have to ride the filly just to maintain her position. On Thursday, it was America who grabbed the bit and took off with Alvarado entering the turn.

“Today, as soon as she switched leads, she started picking it up on her own, and I started going with her, and she responded very fast,” Alvarado said. “Turning for home, I was very happy with where I was, but I kept riding her, knowing her, and we got lucky getting there on the wire.”

America covered the 1 1/16 miles over a fast inner track in 1:44.68 and returned $10.40 as the third choice.

It remains to be seen whether America stays in training throughout the year. If she does, a logical next target for her could be the $100,000 Ladies Handicap here Jan. 31.