04/06/2013 4:26PM

Aqueduct: Close Hatches wins Gazelle battle with Princess of Sylmar

Tom Keyser
Close Hatches and jockey Joel Rosario pull away from Princess of Sylmar in the Gazelle.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Close Hatches remained perfect from three starts and thrust herself into prominence as she brought Princess of Sylmar’s four-race win to a halt in Saturday’s $250,000 Gazelle Stakes at Aqueduct.

Coming off maiden and first-level allowance wins at Gulfstream Park for Juddmonte Farms and Bill Mott, Close Hatches was hustled to the front by Joel Rosario soon after the start, and established the pace in the two-path while flanked by Walkwithapurpose on the rail and Princess of Sylmar on the outside.

After posting early fractions of 24.23 and 47.47 seconds, Close Hatches was challenged in earnest by Princess of Sylmar midway on the far turn through six furlongs in 1:10.95, and the 3-year-old fillies locked in a pitched battle.

Passing midstretch, Close Hatches ($4.50) began to prevail, and she was going away late to win by 3 1/4  lengths after 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.53 seconds on a fast main track. Princess of Sylmar, the 3-2 second choice, had won her first four starts around two turns by better than 38 lengths. She was clearly second best by 3 3/4 lengths over 7-2 third choice Walkwithapurpose. It was a chasm (16 lengths) back to Watrugonnadorosie, Let Me Entertain U, and Red Hot Tweet, as the field finished in pari-mutuel order.

“My horse broke well out of the gate, and she found herself on the lead,” said Rosario. “I was fairly confident the whole way. I just had to keep her relaxed and hope she had something left when she turned for home. She’s a young filly, and it’s only the second time she’s gone long, so it looks like she has a future.”

Close Hatches earned 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks, which Mott said “is certainly a possibility. She showed a lot of courage, is what she showed. She went eyeball to eyeball with a horse that has a lot of experience, and developed a pretty good record over the course of the winter here and won [two] stakes. I think for a third start and first time in stakes company, she ran very, very well. We’ll discuss her next start with the racing manager and the owner.”

Princess of Sylmar earned 40 points, to go along with the 10 she got for winning the Busher Stakes.