Through a driving rain, Edgar Prado saw the light. The Hall of Fame jockey cut the corner with Spritely and sprinted past a fading Color Me Up in the Grade I Go For Wand Sunday. The race was carved and on the table.
“Oh man, I thought I had a hell of a chance to win the race. I thought I was home free,” Prado said as he walked through the rain to the jocks’ room afterward. “As soon as I turned her loose, she gave me that quick acceleration to get through, I thought I was gone.”
Rajiv Maragh, aboard second choice Seventh Street, wasn’t as convinced. Well off the rail by design, he saw the streak inside him, tabulated it quickly and never panicked.
“At first glance I was hoping it wasn’t Miss Isella, see, I think on paper Spritely doesn’t want to go that far,” Maragh said. “When I saw her, I know in my heart that she’s not going to outfinish me head and head for the next three-sixteenths of a mile so I was happy it was that horse that came up the rail.”
Of the top four choices, favorite Miss Isella entered as the only one with success at the 9-furlong distance. Seventh Street appeared vulnerable. Spritely leapt from 7 furlongs to 9 furlongs. The meter ran out at about the eighth pole.
Seventh Street took aim and ran her down, switching to her left lead late to grind out a hard-earned victory by 1 1/2 lengths. Miss Isella nailed Spritely for the second-place check. Owned by Godolphin Racing and trained by Saeed bin Suroor, Seventh Street earned her second Grade I stakes victory and fifth career win. The 4-year-old daughter of Street Cry cost $1 million at Fasig-Tipton February in 2007. She’s now earned $656,000. She finished in 1:51.01 over the sloppy track.
Maragh picked up the mount in November, as the big guns went south for the winter. The 3-year-old Kentucky-bred and the 23-year-old Jamaica-bred (at the time), won two allowance races at Aqueduct, finished second in the Grade II Barbara Fritchie at Laurel and then dominated the Grade I Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park in April. Pretty good winter gig.
As the business model says, Seventh Street then switched from Darley to Godolphin, Kiaran McLaughlin walked her over to Rick Mettee. The cribnotes were short; a little nervous in the paddock, a little funny in the gate, other than that, she’s easy. Making her first start for Godolphin in the Grade I Ogden Phipps, Seventh Street flamed out on the lead, while softened up by her entrymate, and wound up second around Belmont’s one turn.
Maragh oozed confidence leading up to the Go For Wand. He breezed her twice, both times zipping 5 furlongs in less than a minute. Mettee followed suit.
“We were a little concerned about the distance but Rajiv had worked her the last two five-eighths and he just raved about how she was working. He was extremely confident and that kind of wore off on us, so that’s why we decided to take a shot in this race,” Mettee said. “She has a lot of heart. Seven to nine, it takes a real good filly to go from seven to nine like that. Now, we’ve got a real decision to make.”
On Travers Weekend, the racing office cards two options; the Grade I Ballerina going 7 furlongs and the Grade I Personal Ensign going 10 furlongs. At Belmont, the Grade I Ruffian would be a slam dunk. Tough call.
Maragh isn’t worried. In the Go For Wand, he guided the chestnut filly from the inside post to the outside lane to get off the water-logged rail. From there, he sat off Color Me Up through a quarter-mile in 23.58 seconds, a half in 47.22 and three quarters in 1:11.27. When Color Me Up faded, Maragh waited; wide and content as Spritely shot through on the rail.
“My filly is a fighter, if someone else came to her, she had more to give. The last 20 yards before the wire, her ears went up and she switched to the wrong lead, but the race was over by then,” Maragh said. “Head and head she’s very competitive. That’s why I kept her on the outside, I didn’t want to commit to being chased all the way because she gets aggressive. Out there, she was in a very happy, comfortable stride, basically with a smile on her face. Just cruising along, once she does that I know she’s going to finish because she’s talented.”
Friday, Maragh won the Lake George for D. Wayne Lukas. He thought that was big. The Go For Wand carries Grade I next to its name. He won his first Grade I last spring when McLaughlin put him on Little Belle to win the Ashland at Keeneland. The Apple Blossom made two. The Go For Wand made three – and first at Saratoga.
“It’s very hard to describe, as I passed the wire, my adrenaline was pumping as much as it was coming down the lane,” Maragh said. “It’s a great opportunity, to ride in those silks, Godolphin, big people in the business, lovely owners, they’ve given me a great opportunity, to win a race like this on center stage. It gives you a lot of confidence, like anything is possible. It’s always great to win on a daily basis but to be a household name, these are the races you want to win. You win these races, people get to know who Rajiv Maragh is.”