07/20/2016 6:55AM

Melaleuca uncatchable in Brandywine

Linscott Photography
Melaleuca wins the Brandywine Stakes at Indiana Grand on Tuesday.

Melaleuca engaged in a protracted speed duel with Fancy Madelyn in the Brandywine Stakes on Tuesday at Indiana Grand – and it didn’t matter at all. Melaleuca put Fancy Madelyn away, and Puntsville, who appeared poised to pounce from third at the top of the stretch, could make no late headway as Melaleuca won the $77,700 Brandywine by 1 3/4 lengths in her stakes debut.

Breaking from post 2 under Jon Court, Melaleuca ($14.20) dueled along the rail with Fancy Madelyn, racing two paths wide, glued to her flank through an opening quarter-mile in 21.38 seconds. The pace in the five-furlong turf race was demanding, as evidenced by the trouble 6-5 favorite Richies Sweetheart and Puntsville, fast fillies themselves, had keeping up with it. The track surface might have aided the leaders, since the only other turf race on the card also was won in front-running fashion.

Melaleuca, got her half in 44.69 and stayed on strongly to complete five furlongs on firm turf in 57.28 seconds.

Puntsville, who was hard-ridden early but still on the bridle at the top of the stretch, finished a clear second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of pace-dueling Fancy Madelyn, whose third-place finish bolsters the notion the turf played to speed Tuesday. Richies Sweetheart, who won the 2015 Brandywine, hit the gate at the start, never came close to her preferred front-running position, and came home meekly for eigth.

Melaleuca is by Half Ours and out of the Stravinsky mare Fleeting Meloday. She was bred and is co-owned by Robert Richie, and is trained and co-owned by Brian Michael, who won the third stakes of his career. A 6-year-old, Melaleuca didn’t even make the races until her 4-year-old season, and she won just twice in her first 13 starts. But she has developed nicely as a turf sprinter, and won her second race in a row Tuesday while belatedly making her first stakes start.