12/06/2014 5:01PM

Expression spoils swan song of two mares in Garland of Roses

Chelsea Durand
Expression, with Manuel Franco up, capitalizes on a perfect trip to capture the Garland of Roses.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Winning Image and Willet were hoping to end their racing careers on a winning note, but it was the connections of a different horse who left sloppy Aqueduct on Saturday with a happy expression on their faces.

Expression, a 5-year-old daughter of Invasor claimed by Charlton Baker two years ago for $35,000, ran by Winning Image in deep stretch to take the $100,000 Garland of Roses by three quarters of a length. It was another three-quarters of a length back to Willet, the 6-5 favorite, in third.

Sounds of the City, Jonata, and Bridgehampton completed the order of finish. Frivolity, Joya Real, and Luna Girl completed the order of finish.

After the race, Michael Aro, the trainer of the 10-time stakes winner Winning Image, said this was the 33rd and final race of that 7-year-old mare’s career. She retires with a record of 14 wins - 10 in stakes - 6 seconds, and 5 thirds. She earned $749,237.

“I think this is it,” said Aro, who hoped to book Winning Image to Malibu Moon. “She’s been great. I can’t complain.”

Jimmy Iselin, trainer and part-owner of Willet, said he would evaluate the future of his 6-year-old New York-bred mare, a four-time stakes winner, before deciding her future.

“We know we’re not running for a while, if ever,” Iselin said. “But, she’s been great, right?”

Meanwhile, Baker was already looking forward to 2015 with Expression, who was making just her fourth start this year in the Garland of Roses. The $100,000 Interborough on Jan. 17 will likely be next for Expression.

Baker gave Expression a break following her fifth-place finish in last February’s Correction Stakes. He couldn’t find a race for Expression at Saratoga, so she entered this race with just two races under her belt this fall, both second-place finishes.

She also entered the Garland of Roses with an 0-for-5 record over wet tracks.

“I was definitely concerned about a wet track. Her numbers kind of stayed the same but she never ran her race on a wet track,” Baker said.

Expression, under Manuel Franco, got a perfect setup Saturday as Bridgehampton set fractions of 22.94 seconds and 46.92 with Winning Image pressing early her before backing off. Franco had Expression in fifth position, while wide.

In the stretch, Winning Image came back to overtake Bridgehampton, but couldn’t hold off Expression, who rallied down the center of the track.

Expression covered the six furlongs in 1:13.25 and returned $14.40 to win.

“When I got her to the outside, she started running again,” Franco said, about the stretch run. “I used my whip left-handed and she responded very good.”

Franco won two races on Saturday’s card and has a meet-best eight wins since the inner track opened on Wednesday.