09/20/2014 4:55PM

Artemis Agrotera chases down La Verdad in final stride to win Gallant Bloom


When she last raced, on Aug. 23 at Saratoga, Artemis Agrotera had the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes wrapped up by mid-stretch. On Saturday, heavily favored in the Gallant Bloom at Belmont, she didn’t hit the front until the final stride. But get there Artemis Agrotera did, nipping the sharp and game pace-setter La Verdad to win the Grade 2, $300,000 Gallant Bloom by a head.

Racing second to last for much of the trip as La Verdad laid down torrid splits of 21.61 seconds and 43.78, Artemis Agrotera, wide on the turn, straightened for home with many lengths still to make up.

“I didn’t think she had any chance,” said trainer Mike Hushion. “Ever the pessimist.”

But the fast pace began taking its toll on La Verdad the final furlong as Artemis Agrotera on the far outside and Willet to her inside began cutting into the lead, stride by stride. Willet lost a touch of momentum the final half-furlong, but Artemis Agrotera kept coming, getting to La Verdad just before the wire.

Winning time for 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track was 1:15.49, and Artemis Agrotera, heavily favored, paid $2.80 to win. Willet was easily third-best.
Hushion said he’d given winning rider Rajiv Maragh “no orders whatsoever” before the race, and despite riding a filly with speed in her arsenal, Hushion said Maragh made the decision just after the start to race from behind what he quickly estimated to be a fast pace.

“He said he felt good about doing it that way,” Hushion said.

And Hushion has every right to feel good about Artemis Agrotera going into autumn. The 3-year-old filly, a New York-bred by Roman Ruler – Indy Glory, bred and owned by Chester and Mary Broman, won for the fifth time in seven races, and is 3 for 3 since Hushion turned her back to sprints this summer. Hushion confirmed the Filly and Mare Sprint remains the goal and said Artemis Agrotera’s itinerary for getting to Santa Anita in the best possible shape will be formulated in coming weeks. Last fall, she finished a flat fifth in the BC Juvenile Fillies.

“We’ve got a nice six weeks to take our time with this filly and make a plan,” Hushion said.