09/21/2013 6:04PM

Parx: Cotillion victory puts Close Hatches back in contention for champion 3-year-old filly

Barbara D. Livingston
Close Hatches, with Mike Smith aboard, delivers as the favorite in the $1 million Cotillion.

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.



Peter Royek More than 1 year ago
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
Richard Jaimungal More than 1 year ago
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
edb More than 1 year ago
She doesn't have the other three horses running to help her. I hope she does, but I won't be betting her to win. I did have her for the Ky Oaks exacta future. Time and place
edb More than 1 year ago
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.
Joe Rockhold More than 1 year ago
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.
not impressed More than 1 year ago
Last I heard she was getting a break til next year.
Bbrizz More than 1 year ago
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
Mark More than 1 year ago
Shed run away just like the KENTUCKY OAKS right Thomas cook ? Lol.
Mark More than 1 year ago
She's the duck afraid to race vs royal delta. Pos is suiting up next Saturday at Belmont park. While CH connections chose to run vs straight 3 year olds with her main comp being two sprinters. You want a piece of pos enter Beldame and beat here regardless ofwhere royal delta finishes . Heads up. Period.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
So Mott was supposed to pass up a million dollar race with Close Hatches to run second to Royal Delta from his own barn? If you can win Cotillion and Beldame isn't that smarter handling? You've lost it Mark. Too long watching Pletcher run his five horses in same race to try to win. How that work in Derby? Orb and Shug spanked them. Trust me. They were afraid to lose to Close Hatches in Cotillion. Losing to Royal Delta is expected. And safer. Unless of course RD goes in Classic so Close Hatches can win Distaff with Princess not running. Oh wait..isn't that how Princess won CCA OAKS and ALABAMA..cause CL was sick and didn't run?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Did she run in oaks ? Yep. And got drilled. If you want $ go get it. Don't then try to say she's ducking you. That's a bunch of trash. They had the choice. The chose the $. So deal with it. Don't run your mouth especially after the filly handed it to you in the biggest race of them all. Its the owners horse. Not motts. They have final say. Period. Not mott. And how'd it work in the Belmont when pm embarrassed orb ? As he is going to again Saturday . BTW if royal delta goes distaff again as Mott prefers(the owner is the one thinking about classic ) are you trying to tell me that CH won' t run in distaff ? So now its OK to face rd just because its BC and purse is bigger? Can't have it both ways guy. Should have suited up next Saturday and let your horse do the talking not the juddmont rep. He still bitter over the thumping they got in the oaks.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Youre amusing. Running in Cotillion was smart. Picked up $600,000. While Royal Delta will win Beldame. Then Distaff as they plan. But if by some chance she goes in Classic then Close Hatches could win Distaff. Either way its smart to win Cotillion and Beldame and have luxury of running first and second in Distaff. Don't you think? And I highly doubt Orb loses to PM on Saturday. Orb ran at least once a month since Saratoga in 2012 right up to his Derby win. Where he peaked. Then was tired in Preakness an Belmont from running for nearly a year straight. No horse does that. Not even older ones. So Orb needed the summer rest. Wasn't 100% fit for Travers and still beat PM and lost race by less than a length. Now with Travers as tightener he will beat PM in JCGC and may just win the race. His only real threat is Flat Out. Not Pletchers Cross Traffic or PALACE MALICE. Look how Shug trains. His % second off lay off. They want JCG. Travers was the tightener. Learn the game.
Mark More than 1 year ago
But I thought your suck up shug was a horseman and able to get it done ? What happened ? Now the horse was tired ? Lol . Excuses excuses are piling up . Its clear youccan't see through that pile of chit.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Learn the game ? Hilarious. You yourself said pm was much the best intravers. Now you say orb was better? You my friend are a not true to your word. Learn honesty. I know the game.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Also in Oaks I believe Dreaming of Julia was the apple of Todd's eye. Then up jumped POS. Much to everyone's surprise. Including Todd as quoted post race. I'm not knocking the filly. I'm just stating chess moves. If Todd truly believed he was better than Close Hatches then why not win the Cotillion and the $600,000 and prove it? Why choose to run second to Royal Delta? Because it looks better than losing to Close Hatches again in Eclipse voting. I truly hope it blows up in his face. Its not sportsmanlike to say you have best 3 year old filly and not run against the competition in your division. IRS kinda like taking your ball and going home cause your tired and your competition out playing you. Quit while you're ahead? Real sporty of them.
not impressed More than 1 year ago
If you paid attention he is running PoS in the Beldame because it's LONGER. Maybe to YOU it doesn't register, but it makes sense to me. Oh and by the way, There's NO way Close Hatches wins Ch 3yof...unless she wins the Distaff and something happens to PoS and even then I doubt it. PoS has won the three most important 3yof races in the country (KY Oaks, CCA Oaks and Alabama) and last I checked they weigh MUCH more in the minds of the voters than the Gazelle, Mother Goose (or Acorn), and Cotillion. So running a respectable 2nd to Royal Delta will only help her case. After all Royal Delta won the Alabama and ran a strong 2nd to Havre De Grace in the Beldame in 2011 and then sealed title honors in the Distaff when she won. Can't see that happening for Close Hatches...she's too tempermental.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Also the connections are thinking of the filly and bringing her back to run again next year. Wah wah wah. Thom. Your dislike for pletcher and the fact he is going to win n an eclipse with 3 year old filly is why you are crying. Get over it .
Jordan More than 1 year ago
The race they ALL should be running in is the BC Distaff. That's the race with the biggest purse, the greatest prestige, and the opportunity to face the best older mares, including but not limited to Royal Delta. To me, the Beldame or Cotillion debate is dwarfed by the BC decisions. Princess is still the clear leader of the division. Going into this past weekend, Close Hatches needed to go back-to-back in the Cotillion and BC Distaff or Beholder has to go Zenyatta-Distaff, AND Princess has to lose the Beldame in order for Princess to not win the Eclipse. That's a lot of conditions. However, Close Hatches did make the first step in winning the Cotillion. And by not running in the BC, the connections of Princess are keeping that door open, and most importantly taking control out of their hands; instead, they are going to be sitting around hoping some 3rd party can beat CH and Beholder
Mark More than 1 year ago
She beat both CH and beholder in kenty oaks. They will not win regardless of how the distaff goes. Oaks ccao Alabama with head head wins over those two in ko bigger wins than your hypothetical what its. Period.
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
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!
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Sweet Lulu was given a mountain of a task. Off just 3 starts, none in a graded stakes, she was shipped cross country to win the gr.1 Test at 7 furlongs. Then, she again races across the country from her base when asked to steatch out to 8.5 furlongs in yet another grade 1. The fact she battled back for 2nd speaks to her class and heart.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Billy Mott trains for race-day,as we've seen many times. All other talk is just that.
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
What do you mean I don't understand ?
russell More than 1 year ago
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.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
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.
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
How are you ducking Close Hatches to face Royal Delta ??
not impressed More than 1 year ago
If I owned PoS I'd skip the BC too, she doesn't have anything to prove and more horses have actually never been the same after running in it (aka last year's BC Classic, BC Juv, and BC Turf...). The BC is not the end all for everything and besides I don't care if I don't have to pay for the fee the following year or if I had the money to run in it in the first place. Maybe the owner doesn't want to ship to CA, that's his right. I seem to remember Mineshaft skipping the BC and ending his career in the 2003 JCGC and yet he still won HOTY and divisional honors. There have been plenty of greedy owners who have run their horses in the BC and shouldn't have because they couldn't handle the track (Sightseek, Clear Mandate, Hidden Lake come to mind) and they all ran off the board and wasted money. Nope, BC wouldn't tempt me at all if I was in his position.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
I agree it's the onwers decision to run, or not. However, I strongly disagree that PoS has nothing left to prove. First, horses always have more to prove, always can accomplish more and pad their resumes. Second, PoS has yet to run against older females. That's kind of a big deal, especially since one of the older mares is a future Hall of Famer. Imagine if PoS beat RD in the Beldame, and then concluded the year with a win in the BC Distaff. That would be a season second maybe to only Rachel's 2009 for the best by a 3 year old filly over the last 15 years.