04/09/2017 5:42PM

Sweet Loretta fires fresh in Beaumont

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Sweet Loretta, under Javier Castellano, wins the Grade 3 Beaumont by three lengths.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sweet Loretta flexed her Grade 1 muscles when returning from a five-month layoff with a three-length triumph Sunday in the 32nd running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland.

Run amid sensational weather while concluding an eventful three-day opening of the 15-day spring meet, the Beaumont was over by the time the field of seven 3-year-old fillies hit the furlong pole. That’s when Javier Castellano had maneuvered his mount through an inside opening, and the daughter of Tapit did the rest.

“Turning for home, I took my shot and cut the corner,” said Castellano. “The way she did it ... she did it really well.”

Sweet Loretta, owned by the St. Elias Stable of Vinny Viola, returned $4.40 as favorite after finishing the Beard Course distance of seven furlongs and 184 feet in 1:27.27 over a fast track. Sine Wave, prominent throughout, held well for second, while Laney closed late to be third; both were dismissed at 16-1.

The victory was the 50th in a Keeneland stakes for trainer Todd Pletcher, giving him a tie with his former boss, D. Wayne Lukas, for most all-time stakes wins at this 81-year-old track. Pletcher watched elsewhere after departing Lexington on Saturday night following the Blue Grass Stakes.

Sweet Loretta won her first three career starts, including a dead heat in the Grade 1 Spinaway last September, before finishing 11th in the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in her most recent appearance. She was regrouped at Pletcher’s winter base at Palm Beach Downs in the interim.

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“She’s been training very well lately,” said Pletcher assistant Ginny DePasquale.

The Beaumont was worth 17 eligibility points toward the May 5 Kentucky Oaks, including 10 for Sweet Loretta as the winner, but the last time a Beaumont winner ran back in the Oaks was 2006.

The $2 exacta (3-6) paid $60.80, the $1 trifecta (3-6-1) returned $142, and the 10-cent superfecta (3-6-1-7) was worth $73.42.

On-track attendance was 18,879.

Projected outlasts Divisidero

One race earlier, Projected ($7) barely outlasted Divisidero in a frantic finish in an extraordinarily deep allowance for older horses at 1 1/16 miles that went in 1:42.04 over firm turf.

Trained by Chad Brown for owner-breeder Juddmonte Farms, Projected was making just his second North American start after finishing fourth last month in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream Park. Joel Rosario was up.

“I guess he needed that first race,” said Brown. “He’s a really nice horse. We’ll see what’s next.”

Brown said the 1 1/8-mile Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, a Grade 1 fixture on the Kentucky Derby undercard, is very unlikely.

“That might be a little too far,” he said. “He’s probably more of a miler.”

Conversely, “this ought to set us up just right for the Woodford,” said Buff Bradley, trainer of Divisidero, winner of the 2016 Woodford. “You never like to lose, but this kind of effort was exactly what we were looking for.”

Pleuven was third and Kaigun was fourth in a field of nine.