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Parx: Cotillion victory puts Close Hatches back in contention for champion 3-year-old filly
BENSALEM, Pa. - There was both delight and disappointment on the part of the connections of Close Hatches after their 3-year-old filly returned from a three-month layoff with a two-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion Stakes at Parx.
The delight, naturally, was with the victory, the fifth from seven starts for Close Hatches - all this year - and her second Grade 1 triumph. The disappointment was with the fact the Cotillion field did not include Princess of Sylmar, the leader of the division based on three Grade 1 victories earlier in the year. Princess of Sylmar, whose only loss this year came to Close Hatches in the Grade 2 Gazelle at Aqueduct, skipped the Cotillion to run in next Saturday’s Grade 1 Beldame against older fillies and mares at Belmont Park.
“I felt very comfortable, especially going this distance [1 1/16 miles], she would give Princess of Sylmar a run for her money,” said Garrett O’Rourke, racing manager for Juddmonte Farms which owns Close Hatches. “When you see what she did today, giving seven pounds to Sweet Lulu and My Happy Face, I still feel the same way. Not taking anything away from Princess of Sylmar, but I think [Close Hatches] is a legitimate contender for the 3-year-old filly championship. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to have that face-off today.”
Though Princess of Sylmar lost to Close Hatches in the Gazelle, she defeated Close Hatches soundly in the Kentucky Oaks.
Due to an illness contracted a week after she won the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont in June, Close Hatches was forced to miss the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama - both Grade 1 stakes won by Princess of Sylmar - this summer at Saratoga. Trainer Bill Mott said he immediately pointed Close Hatches to this spot and said it was “rewarding to win it.”
Despite the absence of Princess of Sylmar, the Cotillion did have the undefeated Sweet Lulu, winner of the Grade 1 Test, and My Happy Face, a runner-up in a pair of Grade 1 races.
Under Julien Leparoux, Sweet Lulu set fractions of 23.87 seconds for the quarter and 47.24 for the half-mile while being stalked by My Happy Face and Close Hatches who was three wide.
Down the backstretch, Mike Smith couldn’t hold Close Hatches anymore and she joined the leaders with a half-mile to run.
Into the turn, Close Hatches and Sweet Lulu were a team, but it was Close Hatches going the better of the two in the stretch, edging clear late. Close Hatches, a daughter of First Defence, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.03 and returned $5.20 as the favorite.
Smith acknowledged that he probably joined the leaders earlier than he would have preferred, “but taking any more of a hold of her would be the wrong thing to do,” Smith said.
“I put my hands down hoping she’d relax after she goes another sixteenth of a mile and she did. That’s when I took a sigh of relief,” Smith added. “I could have been on the lead if I wanted, to be honest with you.”
Sweet Lulu, winner of the Grade 1 Test last out at Saratoga, suffered her first career defeat after winning her first four races. She held second by a nose over Street Girl, who broke horribly from the gate. She was followed in the order of finish by My Happy Face, Dancing Afleet, Asiya, Seaneen Girl, Promise Me More, and Carnival Court.
The future for Close Hatches is uncertain. She could run in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, though that would be her first meeting against older fillies and mares, including two-time Distaff winner Royal Delta, who also happens to be trained by Mott.
“There won’t be pressure on us to take a filly that’s anything less than kicking down the barn because we’ve always had it in the back of our minds that there is next year too,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke did admit that the Distaff would be under consideration “probably more by us than him,” referring to Mott.
Stop the madness! POS spotted CH 6 lbs in the Gazelle. When starting at equal load, POS smoked her in the KO, even after getting jostled at the gate!!!! CH is a great filly, but let's not
POS beasts RD in the Beldame she wins the eclipse easily she has nothing to prove against 3 y.o .The beldane is a race of greater status than the cotillion. Todd will have her ready and she will defeat royal delta 3\1 NAP
POS has to run against RD to try to get Eclipse Award the hard way. Can't blame Closed Hatches for winning a million dollar. It's just smart racing sense. She can get her shot at RD Nov. 1 while POS is sitting in the barn. So you think the path of most resistance makes sense? I hope POS gives RD a good run, but it was not the best race for POS. At least you should get 3-1 odds for a losing $2 win bet. Mark, it's right up your alley. Thomas, you are right.
Does anyone know the status of Dreaming of Julia? Guessing she's done for the year since she's been off quite awhile now but never heard what happened to her.
I still think Sweet LuLu is amongst the best 3 yr old fillies. She did a lot of traveling over the past month and it was her first time trying the distance. Still in all she made a good Acct of herself running the way she did against close hatches and I think she deserves a rematch perhaps when she is more rested and is racing over a better track then parx which in my opinion is one of the worst. Expect to see Sweet LuLu come back in a big way next time
Shed run away just like the KENTUCKY OAKS right Thomas cook ? Lol.
I have to eat some crow. I was on record with Sweet Lulu as maybe the best 3yr old filly. While I still think she showed heart trying to re-rally, she just is not in the same league right now as Close Hatches. The one thing I was right about and it really got under my skin was Watchmakers comments about My Happy Face being the best in the Test. Lets put that to rest now. Awesome performance by Close Hatches!
Billy Mott trains for race-day,as we've seen many times. All other talk is just that.
Not a very impressive race. This filly can't beat Royal Delta on her bad day so why run in the BC Distaff? If I owned her I'd wheel her right back in the Spinster at Kee.
I disagree with those commenting that the connections of Princess of Sylmar were ducking Close Hatches; the Cotillion may have the larger purse, but the Beldame has the history, has older females, and has Royal Delta. I can't criticize the Princess team for running in the Beldame. Now, where I do have a problem with the connections of Princess of Sylmar is how they've taken the Breeder's Cup off the table. Is Princess healthy? Well, she's healthy enough to be running next week, and I have trouble accepting when a healthy horse is kept out of the BC. So, is it all about the supplementary fee? I certainly get the economics of the decision, but that doesn't make it sporting. And from what I understand, and unlike the past, if Team Princess were pay the fee this year then they wouldn't have to pay the fee again next year or any years after that. In contrast, the connections of horses like Bayakoa, Paseana, and Best Pal had to pay the fee for each BC start, which for Best Pal was 3 times and close to $1 million. My opinion is that there is something slightly more going on besides the fee. The decision to keep Princess out of the BC smells of a "Four Corners" strategy. If Princess doesn't shoot(race) she can't miss(lose), and a rival contender can't make shots(win head-to-head races) that would close the gap(of the Eclipse race). I don't agree that Team Princess was ducking Close Hatches or that running in the Beldame is cowardly. The presence of Royal Delta means Princess is much less likely to win the Beldame than win the Cotillion, had she run. However, I agree with fellow commentators like Thomas Cook that the Princess would have had more to lose by running in the Cotillion. If Princess gets beat by Royal Delta in the Beldame, no harm done; it was always going to be a little bit of a longshot proposition. And losing to Roayl Delta wouldn't have much effect on the 3 year old filly Eclipse since Princess would be losing to a 5 year old. In contrast, a loss by Princess in the Cotillion would have given Close Hatches a 2-1 head-to-head advantage, a development that would have had serious Eclipse ramifications. So, while ducking is not the right word(ducking suggests that Team Princess believes Close Hatches to be the superior filly and the likely Cotillion winner), Team Princess was probably not overly eager to give Close Hatches a chance to take the head-to-head series lead. But really, I'm far less interested in the Beldame vs. Cotillion debate than I am about Princess being kept out of the BC. My belief is that if Princess is healthy she should run; it's that simple.