04/12/2015 4:43PM

Miss Ella wins graded stakes debut in Beaumont

Coady Photography
Miss Ella wins the Beaumont Stakes on Sunday at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Miss Ella and Donworth were workmates over the winter in Florida and flattered one another with strong maiden scores March 11 and March 14, respectively, at Gulfstream Park.

Both impressed trainer Graham Motion enough to step straight into graded company next time out. First up to bat was Donworth, who finished second as the favorite in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes on Saturday. But waiting in the wings was Miss Ella, who delivered. The filly got a perfect stalking trip under Rajiv Maragh to upset the Grade 2, $250,000 Beaumont Stakes on Sunday at Keeneland.

“Even before they ran in their maidens, they were working together,” Motion said. “So obviously, we thought a lot of her.”

Miss Ella ($21.40) set the fractions and rolled by three lengths in her Gulfstream debut, also under Maragh. Her impressive performance and a strong subsequent work gave Motion confidence ahead of her stakes debut.

“It was just a great opportunity,” Motion said of the Beaumont. “The timing was good. She had a really good workout with Donworth before we left Florida, so it gave me confidence to do it. With fillies, you’re always looking for black-type opportunities.”

On paper, there appeared to be a good deal of speed in the Beaumont, and that was how it unfolded once the gate opened, as Fantastic Style, in from California for Bob Baffert, led through fractions of 22.87 seconds and 46.11, with Divine Dawn pressing the issue on her inside. Meanwhile, Miss Ella – who broke from post 6 in the field of seven – was just off those two, comfortably stalking in third on the outside.

“I loved being on the outside,” Motion said. “I was pretty sure Baffert’s horse would go, and there would be a couple of speed horses. I really thought she would lay off horses, even though she was on the lead [in her debut].”

Miss Ella moved to even terms with the top two entering the stretch and steadily edged away to her final margin, stopping the clock in 1:28.11 for the seven furlongs. Divine Dawn held second by a length over Fantastic Style. Delightful Joy, sent away as the favorite also off a debut win at Gulfstream, never was a factor in finishing sixth.

The Beaumont was the final race offering points toward a spot in the Kentucky Oaks starting gate, but with just 10 awarded to the winner, it will not produce a starter this year. In any event, Miss Ella was not among the early nominations to the filly classic.

Miss Ella, a daughter of Exchange Rate, races as a homebred for Jack Swain III. Motion also trained the filly’s dam, the winning Woodman mare Sweet Tune, for Swain. The trainer noted the mare was a turf horse, but Miss Ella has comfortably won both her career starts on dirt.

“She handled dirt well in the morning at Palm Meadows, and I felt really comfortable [running her on it],” Motion said. “She’s just got the neatest disposition. She’s just the easiest kind of filly. Just a pleasure.”