And finally the turf. The Grade II Lake George provided what the first three days of the meet hadn’t – good old-fashioned turf racing when every move is magnified and trips mean everything.
Tell that to Eibar Coa, who maneuvered My Princess Jess through the only sliver of daylight he could find in the Lake George. Lael Stable’s filly did the rest, surging to win her third straight stakes race. The Florida-bred daughter of Stormy Atlantic scooted to the right of a stopping Stealin’ Kisses and to the left of a surging Alwajeeha to win by an impressive three quarters of a length. Alwajeeha ran gamely to finish second while Zee Zee couldn’t match the closing kicks of the first two but ran well for third. Trained by Barclay Tagg, My Princess Jess finished the 1 1/16-mile in 1:44.
It came down to Coa’s bravado inside the furlong pole.
Stealin’ Kisses was stopping. Alwajeeha was surging. Zee Zee was ranging. And Coa was dying. My Princess Jess had ranged into contention but was hemmed in at all sides. Coa waited. So did My Princess Jess, who had it all under control.
“She helped me. From the three eighths pole to the quarter pole, I really thought I was on the best horse, I just didn’t have any space to go anywhere,” Coa said. “Everybody started moving, I was waiting, I thought about going around but there were three horses to go around so I said I don’t know. There was a little space to go through, just to put her head in there and then she actually helped me out. She went to the hole. She did the whole job.”
Roy and Gretchen Jackson purchased the filly out of Bobby Barbara’s barn after winning the Gaviola Stakes in May, My Princess Jess went to Tagg’s barn and has done nothing wrong since. She won the Grade III Boiling Springs in her previous start and then handled the small but select field in the Lake George. Tagg was impressed.
“The Jacksons called me up and said there was a horse for sale with Bobby Barbara, I went over and couldn’t find anything wrong with her, she passed the vet and they bought her. I was in the right place at the right time,” Tagg said. “I thought she’d do that but you never know, it was a pretty tough field. She handled them. She’s got guts and Coa’s got guts.”
They needed both.
“After the fact, she made me look good,” Coa said. “Some horses you point them and you know you’re in trouble, you have to push them through there. She took me there and I knew she was going to get through. She always showed she can run, but she never ran against this company. Now she proved it. Going through the hole, she showed me she was much the best.”
Two major contenders departed at the start. French import and favorite Mousse Au Chocolat hesitated at the break, then lunged and found herself well off the pace. One stall away, Receipt buckled and then hopped when taking her first stride, pitching jockey Alan Garcia in the air and costing valuable position. Essentially it was a four-horse race from there. Coa had to yank on My Princess Jess going into the first turn, but the fussiness didn’t last and she settled into a the lap of a perfect scenario. By the time the field hit the backstretch, Alwajeeha and My Princess Jess had adopted the best spots, sitting second and third behind Stealin’ Kisses. Turning for home, it came down to trip.
“Our plan was to sit behind two horses and I actually was a little too close in the beginning. I only saw one horse in front me and then she slowed down, that’s why I started to fight her, she didn’t like that,” Coa said. “Then he picked it up and she relaxed. It was a perfect spot.”
With a perfect ending.
Coa gunned My Princess Jess who split Alwajeeha and Stealin’ Kisses who steadied sharply. Coa never picked up the whip. After the race, stewards posted the inquiry sign. Tagg’s assistant Robin Smullen took off the overgirth while Coa hopped off the bay filly. When Tom Durkin announced that the stewards were looking at Receipt and Mousse Au Chocolat, everyone on the My Princess Jess team exhaled.
“For two seconds, I looked if I could go outside and they all had horse so I couldn’t. It looked like I had to stop and go around two lanes, so I said, I’ll just bide my time. She was amazing,” Coa said. “Everything worked out timing, he stopped and it looked like I bothered him but I didn’t, he was stopping and Johnny saw me and tightened it up, it was a chain reaction. It was good timing. Riding those kind of horses makes you feel good. They make your job so easy.”
There was nothing easy about this one.