07/08/2017 7:10PM

Dona Bruja puts on another show in Modesty Handicap

Four Footed Fotos
Dona Bruja won the Modesty Handicap by a length over Prado's Sweet Ride.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Ignacio Correas grew up in Argentine racing and probably knows as much about the sport in his home country as anyone. Even before Dona Bruja came to the United States, Correas rated her the best Argentine turf mare in a quarter-decade. Now, it is Correas that trains Dona Bruja, and she might even be better than he realized.

For the second time in her two-start United States career, Dona Bruja put on a show. Galloping along well off the pace in the Modesty Handicap on Saturday at Arlington, Dona Bruja began moving up coming off the far turn – and it was not because jockey Declan Cannon was asking. Cannon sat stock still as Dona Bruja closed relentlessly, effortlessly. Finally, at the sixteenth pole, Cannon shook the reins. Dona Bruja, already on fire, exploded, flashing across the wire the sharpest of winners.

Correas already had started sidling toward the winner’s circle.

“At the quarter-pole, when I saw where she was, I knew it was over. I know what kind of kick she has,” Correas said.

Dona Bruja won by one length – a deceptive margin if ever there was one – with Prado’s Sweet Ride up the rail for second.

“I had the best trip in the house: Save all the ground, get through,” said Carlos Marquez, Prado’s Sweet Ride’s jockey. “That’s a Grade 1 horse that beat me.”

Dona Bruja was narrowly favored over Time and Motion, both horses at 6-5, but it was no contest out on the track. Time And Motion got the jump on Dona Bruja but couldn’t come close to matching her turn of foot, checking in third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Prado’s Sweet Ride.

“My filly was very comfortable,” Time and Motion jockey Florent Geroux said . “The winner was right behind me, and when she came by me, it was just a little too much.”

Bonita Cat finished fourth, followed by Daring Duchess and One Liz. La Piba and Stormin Elle were scratched.

Dona Bruja ($4.20) ran 1 3/16 miles on firm turf while carrying 121 pounds in an ordinary 1:55.75, but there was nothing ordinary about her come-home time. The final three-sixteenths of a mile went in a fast 17.01, and Dona Bruja still was a few lengths off the lead when the timer was tripped at the start of that fraction. The mare flew home.

Dona Bruja is a 5-year-old on Northern Hemisphere time who was bred in Argentina by her owner, Ivan Gasparotto, who races as Dom Felipe. She is by Gasparotto’s stallion, Storm Embrujado, and out of the Nureyev mare This Is Crazy.

Dona Bruja was a star at home, winning eight of her 10 starts and twice finishing second, and Correas thought the filly was not ridden properly in her two defeats. Gasparotto sent Dona Bruja to America early this year – a dream come true, Correas said – and she worked steadily at Keeneland into her North American debut June 10 in the Mint Julep Handicap. Not pushed to make that race, Dona Bruja finished with a flourish and won anyway, and she was even better Saturday.

Cannon, a 29-year-old Irishman who spent two winters in Qatar and has been riding in the U.S. for two years, started working Dona Bruja this spring at Keeneland, where Correas keeps the bulk of his stable.

“I have a lot of confidence in her. All I wanted to do was get her to settle today. Once I got into a nice rhythm and I was behind [Time and Motion], it was just a matter of when I wanted to go,” Cannon said. “I’ve been working her a lot. She works so good on the dirt, and I was like, ‘This is a grass filly.’ There’s not a filly right now I’d be afraid of taking on. She’s the best horse I’ve ridden. She’s got a turn of foot like those good European horses. She’s top class.”

Correas has a string at Arlington, but Dona Bruja will return to Keeneland to train for the Beverly D. Correas has done everything right with the filly so far.
“I don’t really need to do much with her now. Keep her happy, just maintenance. When she’s happy she can run. I try not to interfere with what she wants to do,” Correas said.

What Dona Bruja wants to do is race, and she is very good at it.