06/04/2010 11:00PM

Proviso affirms class in Just a Game


ELMONT, N.Y. - Proviso's development into a top-flight turf mare continued Saturday at Belmont Park as the 5-year-old made the lead just outside the eighth pole, then turned back a stretch challenge from Phola to win the by a half-length.

Phola, last and wide until the quarter pole, rallied for second, a neck in front of My Princess Jess. Cherokee Queen, Fantasia and Speak Easy Gal completed the field.

The victory was the seventh from 20 starts for Proviso, and the $240,000 first-place prize pushed her career earnings to $1,165,473. Proviso is owned and bred by Khaled Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms, which won this race for the third time in the last seven years.

Bill Mott, who trains Proviso, won this race for the fourth time in the 17-year history of the race.

Under Mike Smith, Proviso raced in second position down the backside as Speak Easy Gal, under Javier Castellano, set fractions of 24.54 seconds for the quarter, 48.21 for the half, and 1:11.36 for six furlongs.

Proviso struck the front just outside the eighth pole and had more than enough to hold off the late-running Phola, who was about eight lengths off the early pace.

Proviso, a daughter of Dansili, covered the mile in 1:34.09 over firm turf and returned $4.20 as the even-money favorite.

"I'm just getting more and more impressed with her the more I get to ride her," said Smith, who rode Proviso to a nose victory against males in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe in March. "She went from being a pretty nervous filly to a mare that's really come into herself right now; relaxing. It's added a few more lengths to her. That's a really nice mare she held off. She had to do a lot of the dirty work and still held them off."

Mott said Proviso may be better in races with a faster early pace.

"Maybe this isn't her best set-up," he said. "It was a relatively slow pace but they did kick home." The final quarter was run in 22.73 seconds.

Mott said Proviso would be pointed to the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga on July 31.

Though Phola had a three-race winning streak snapped, her trainer, Todd Pletcher, was impressed with her performance.

"Obviously we got no help from the pace - there was no pace," Pletcher said. "She ran as good as anybody in the race; maybe better."