06/07/2008 12:00AM

Ventura upsets Just a Game


ELMONT, N.Y. - Soft ground and a softer pace was Ventura's undoing in last month's Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs when she finished third.

Saturday at Belmont Park, Ventura got firm ground and a solid early pace and she capitalized on both to record a three-quarter-length victory in the Grade 1, $400,000 Just a Game Stakes. Lady of Venice, the 2-1 favorite, chased Ventura home and finished second, three-quarters of a length in front off 44-1 shot Forever Together.

They were followed in the order of finish by Bayou's Lassie, Sharp Susan, Bit of Whimsy, Criminologist, Vacare, Spenditallbaby, and Them There Eyes.

It was the sixth victory from 12 career starts for Ventura, a 4-year-old daughter of Chester House owned and bred by Juddmonte Farms. It was her third victory in four starts since coming to North America and being turned over to trainer Bobby Frankel.

Winning jockey Garrett Gomez said Ventura "just completely fell apart on me" when he asked her for run in the Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill on May 3. Saturday, Ventura was strong all way, tugging Gomez into third position behind Bayou's Lassie and Sharp Susan and then charging through an opening along the rail in the stretch.

Ventura covered the mile in 1:32.75 and returned $21.20 to win.

"The ground was a lot firmer today than the other day," Gomez said. "She had me in a good spot just like she did last race - she's a really tactical filly. My job is just to get her to relax a little bit and wait until my cue, and she did that today. When I pointed her through there, she was through there so fast and she accelerated. She came home really good."

Frankel said he was a little nervous during the first part of the race because Ventura was fighting Gomez early.

"Once she settled down, I just enjoyed the race," Frankel said. "She's a good filly."

Frankel said he would likely point Ventura to the Grade 2, $750,000 CashCall Mile at Hollywood Park on July 5.