08/13/2016 8:27PM

Sea Calisi impresses in Beverly D. Stakes win

Four Footed Fotos
Sea Calisi, with Florent Geroux aboard, wins the Beverly D. Stakes by half a length Saturday.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – For more than a decade, owner Martin Schwartz has been buying French fillies to win Grade 1 turf races in America. The bloodstock agent Michel Zerolo finds them, Schwartz buys them, and the fillies cross the Atlantic to try to adapt and improve in a whole new racing system. It’s no sure thing, this transition. How does it work so often for Schwartz?

“I have the right trainer,” he said.

That trainer is Chad Brown, and for the fourth time, Schwartz had the right horse for the Grade 1, $700,000 Beverly D., which he won Saturday with Sea Calisi. The victory was an emotional one for Schwartz. As Sea Calisi neared the winner’s circle, he pumped his fist in the air and yelled, “Yeah! That’s four!”

Brown trails Schwartz by one in Beverly D. victories but has won the race two years in a row, taking the 2015 edition with Watsdachances. Brown and Schwartz teamed for the first time in the race with Stacelita in 2011, and Schwartz won his first two, with Gorella and Angara, before he had horses with Brown.

Aboard Sea Calisi was Florent Geroux, who won the Beverly D. for the first time but seemed to win almost all the races on the Saturday card here. He won five in all, four graded stakes, two of them Grade 1s.

“I had a good trip,” Geroux said. “The pacemaker really helped her today. I was able to get over and save ground before the first turn, which was very important.”

Schwartz and Brown were leaving no stone unturned in the Beverly D. Sea Calisi looked like a Grade 1 horse, but she had never won such a race before Saturday, and in the Grade 2 New York last time, she’d raced in a thicket of horseflesh through the homestretch and wound up a tough-luck second.

That race was at 1 1/4 miles, and the Beverly D. is at 1 3/16, and Sea Calisi probably is more naturally a 1 1/2-mile horse, and so her connections entered a pacemaker, Elusive Million, who, after a slow start, was urged to the lead by jockey Julio Felix and carved out a fast pace for the distance, 23.71 and 47.68 seconds. That served to spread the field and gave Sea Calisi both more room to operate and a better pace dynamic for her stretch kick.

“We thought because it was a touch short for her, she needed an honest pace, and the plan came together,” said Brown.

Eleventh in the early and middle stages, Sea Calisi raced in the clear and near the fence at the half-mile pole before Geroux guided her outside on the far turn. He sat on the best horse in the race, had gotten the right setup, and only needed to decide when to pull the trigger. That moment came at the top of the stretch, where Sea Calisi surged mightily, passing most of the field before the stretch call, then moving to the lead in the final furlong.

Al’s Gal, a 20-1 shot, put in a strong bid on the far outside, gaining on the winner over the final furlong before falling a half-length short.

“We just needed a few more feet, I guess,” said trainer Mike Maker.

Zipessa, who pressed the quick pace set by the rabbit and took the lead before the far turn, held on very well for third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Al’s Gal.

“Having the rabbit in there couldn’t have helped, but she ran really well today,” said trainer Mike Stidham.

Tuttipaesi finished fourth, and Faufiler was fifth, while the two Aidan O’Brien-trained 3-year-olds made no impression, with second choice Coolmore 10th and third choice Ballydoyle 12th.

Sea Calisi, who was 2-5 early in the betting, paid $4.20 as the heavy favorite and was timed in 1:54.93 for 1 3/16 miles over firm turf.

“Florent kept her out of trouble and did what he was supposed to do, and she did what she was supposed to do,” said Brown. “She’s a really, really nice filly and should be undefeated over here stateside with some trouble last time.”

The 4-year-old Sea Calisi is by the Irish horse Youmzain and out of a German family, her dam a daughter of the stallion Surumu. She had a good overseas record, winning twice in seven starts, and was a Group 2 winner with a third-place finish in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks. Sea Calisi won the Sheepshead Bay in her U.S. debut before her tough loss in the New York. Brown said she was likely to make her next start in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Belmont.

Schwartz had been stewing on the tough New York beat for weeks now, and he felt the pressure of starting a heavy favorite Saturday.

“It’s very difficult to see your horse at a price like that, to be odds-on from the 13 hole,” he said. “You worry about traffic problems, and you’re in the parking lot to start. It’s just so much relief, I can’t begin to tell you.”

It’s surprising Schwartz had any concern at all. Things always seem to break his way in the Beverly D.