10/30/2016 3:33PM

Lovely Bernadette gets past China Grove in Rags to Riches

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Robby Albarado rides Lovey Bernadette, right, to victory in the Rags to Riches.

LOUISVILLE, KY. - Racing at either Keeneland or at Churchill Downs, at distances from at 6 1/2 furlongs to a mile, Lovely Bernadette is proving slightly superior to China Grove.

Three weeks after they finished first and second in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race at Keeneland, they finished in those positions again in Sunday’s opening-day, $79,940 Rags to Riches Stakes at Churchill Downs, with Lovely Bernadette again coming out of top.

Patiently handled by Robby Albarado, Lovely Bernadette settled in last early in the Rags to Riches, 11 lengths behind Naughty Little Nun and Sailor’s Valentine as they set a quick pace with splits of 22.55 seconds and 45.37 in the one-mile race. Then, as the field hit the midway point of the race, Albarado gave her a cue and she began to steadily advance on the leaders before taking command in midstretch.

The winner appeared to relax on making the lead, allowing China Grove, whom she had passed in early stretch, to cut into her lead late, resulting in a half-length win.

Farrell finished third, a length behind the runner-up, and was followed by 6-5 Sailor’s Valentine in fourth.

The 5-2 second favorite, Lovely Bernadette, a 2-year-old daughter of Wilburn, completed a mile on a fast track in 1:36.51. She paid $7.80.

Winning trainer Jimmy DiVito said she is likely to return in the Grade 2 Golden Rod at 1 1/16 miles at Churchill on Nov. 25 if owner James Miller approves.

Albarado is excited for her future. “I don’t think we’ve seen the depth of her yet,” he said.