05/06/2016 2:49PM

Curalina comes back firing in La Troienne

Barbara D. Livingston
Curalina, under John Velazquez, wins the Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes by 7 1/2 lengths.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Having won the Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland April 9, Sheer Drama was viewed by bettors as having an advantage over the comebacking Curalina in Friday’s Grade 1, $300,000 La Troienne at Churchill Downs.

Yet it turned out to be no advantage at all.

Curalina, the 2.30-1 second choice, rolled to a 7 1/2-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile race in her first start since running third in the Oct. 30 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, while the 9-10 Sheer Drama ran a lackluster third.

Although off a step behind the other five older fillies and mares in the race, Curalina quickly recovered. She used her natural early speed to sit just off the pace of Angela Renee, who coasted on the lead through splits of 24.24 seconds, 48.38, and 1:12.37.

Once in the stretch, Curalina gradually moved past Angela Renee, and then kicked away with authority over the final eighth of a mile.

A 4-year-old daughter of Curlin owned by Eclipse Thoroughbreds, she completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.45 over a fast track, and paid $6.60.

“No one respects this filly,” said Aron Wellman, president of Eclipse Thoroughbreds, to trainer Todd Pletcher as they awaited Curalina to make her way to the winner’s circle.

As well as the filly performed in victory, so did her trainer and jockey. Pletcher had her ready for a peak effort following a break of over six months, and jockey John Velazquez was able to get her well positioned on the outside after her tardy break from the fence.

Engaginglee, the longest shot in the field at 20-1, rallied up the inside from last to be second, edging favorite Sheer Drama by a head for the place

Sheer Drama sat within striking range in fourth along the inside, angled into the clear at the top of the stretch, but did not finish strongly.

Pletcher said the Grade 1, $1 million Ogden Phipps on the Belmont Stakes undercard would likely be Curalina’s next target. She is already proven over that surface, having won the Acorn there on Belmont Day a year ago, one of two Grade 1 victories for Curalina. The other was the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga last year.