Crown Royal recap: All Heart

- -

Mimi Voss and Betty Merck almost retired their star mare Guelph after Far Hills. The daring front-runner ran hard but couldn’t hold off Class Shadow, three years her junior and in receipt of four pounds. Like a daughter, Guelph pulls heart strings on her breeders/owners and a broodmare career beckons at the end of the season.

Mimi Voss handed the decision to her husband/trainer, Tom, and Merck.

Love of the game crept into the conversation and Guelph, Voss and Merck were on their way to Callaway Gardens. And after five minutes of jumping and work ethic, Guelph had her third win of the season and Voss and Merck had a moment to remember.

Co-owners, co-breeders and close friends, the women locked in an embrace as Guelph crossed the wire. The hug took as long as the decision to run.

Padge Whelan put Guelph on the engine from the outset. Confined, third at Far Hills and in receipt of 18 pounds, sat second under Danielle Hodsdon. Richard Boucher parked Jellyberry in third while Perkedinthesand and Willie Dowling relaxed in fourth, settling better than at Far Hills where she softened up Guelph and gave away all chance while pulling for 2 miles. Second-time starter Moon Dolly followed in fifth while 14-year-old former champion Feeling So Pretty lagged in last.

Guelph strolled on an an uncontested lead for two circuits. Boucher pulled the same trump card he used at Far Hills with Class Shadow and prodded Jellyberry to take on Guelph as the field jumped the third-last. Jellyberry turned for home on the inside and in front while Whelan sat chilly knowing he had 2 lengths to spare. With two jumps still to go and sitting aboard a mare who knows only one spot late – long – Whelan could afford to wait. Jellyberry clouted the second-last and Guelph vaulted back to the lead. It was over and done with from there as the daughter of Sky Classic galloped to the line with a length advantage over Jellyberry who had a nose over the rallying Perkedinthesand. Confined finished another neck back in fourth with Moon Dolly fifth, beaten 4 lengths for everything. Guelph went 2 1/4 miles in 3:58 3/5.

“Richard did the right thing but to be fair to her, she stuck her head down and battled,” Whelan said. “I didn’t overly panic, we were a long way from home when we started racing, she stuck to her guns and finished the race.”

Whelan joined Voss’ stable this spring but missed Guelph’s wins at Nashville and Fair Hill due to a broken ankle. He rode her for the first time in the A.P. Smithwick at Saratoga where she couldn’t wrestle the lead from the determined Salford City and wound up fifth. Whelan and Guelph came closer to victory at Far Hills and nailed it at Callaway.

 “Your first vibes are, ‘Jeez, you’re small,’ ” Whelan said. “She might be tiny but she’s got a huge heart. She makes up for it with heart.”