02/25/2007 1:00AM

Royal Highness avenges loss to Safari Queen


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Nine fillies and mares went to post, but in the end Sunday’s $100,000 The Very One Handicap turned into a match race between old nemeses Royal Highness and Safari Queen who battled on near even turns after hooking up at the top of the stretch. Royal Highness ultimately edged away to a two length decision in the 2007 debut for both long distance grass specialists.

By winning the The Very One, Royal Highness avenged her most recent setback when beaten a half length by Safari Queen in Aqueduct's Grade 2 Long Island Handicap on Nov. 4. The victory was also bittersweet for Christophe Clement whose Bend a Little broke down just prior to the finish of The Very One. Track veterinarian Dr. Mary Scollay said “a preliminary evaluation was that both sesamoids in the front leg were fractured.”

“I guess that’s what you call the highs and lows of racing.This was to be this filly’s final race,” Clement said while nodding towards Bend a Little as she was being led onto the horse ambulance. “She was going home to the breeding shed on Tuesday.”

Royal Highness rated in mid-pack for the opening mile of the mile and three furlong The Very One, about a length behind Safari Queen. The pair moved as a team around the final turn with Safari Queen three wide and Royal Highness four wide as they challenged the leaders approaching the quarter pole. The pair raced on even terms through much of the stretch before Royal Highness finally asserted her superiority nearing the wire.

Barancella rallied mildly to finish a non-threatening third, 3.25 lengths behind Safari Queen.

Royal Highness, a 5-year-old German bred daughter of Monsun, was ridden to victory by Edgar Prado. She returned $5.60 as the favorite. The win was the first in three starts in the U.S for Royal Highness who is owned by the Monceaux Stable.

By defeating Safari Queen, Royal Highness kept trainer Todd Pletcher from sweeping the afternoon’s two stakes events. Earlier in the day he sent out Audacious Chloe to upset Eclipse Award winner Dreaming of Anna in the $100,000 Gaily Gaily Stakes.

Audacious Chloe rallied from just off the pace before outfinishing Dreaming of Anna to post a half length triumph in the Gaily Gaily for 3-year-old fillies. Communique was third.

The setback was the second in as many starts for Dreaming of Anna since being voted the 2-year-old filly Eclipse champion in 2006 and her first setback in three starts on turf.

John Velazquez rode Audacious Chloe, a daughter of More Than Ready, who is owned by Team Valor Stables and Never Tell Farm. She paid $8.60.