Elusive Quality mare was longest shot at odds of 14-1 June 13 at Belmont Park.
For She’s a Julie, 2020 did not start off on the best of notes.
After all, in her 17 starts, she had six wins, including a grade 1 at the home of the Twin Spires, and had finished in the top three in a graded stakes on eight occasions.
Unfortunately, all of that consistency did her little good in the Shawnee, when she reared at the start, could not flash her typical early speed, and wound up a well-beaten sixth, 13 1/4 lengths behind Dunbar Road.
It was hardly the kind of effort that serves as a powerful springboard to future success, yet it was enough for trainer Steve Asmussen to draw a line through the race and point She’s a Julie to the $300,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park.
“It was the boss’s decision,” said Toby Sheets, Asmussen’s New York-based assistant, about the decision to run in the Phipps. “You had to throw the last one out. You know she can run better than that.”
Drawing a line through She’s a Julie’s previous start was surely the right move. The daughter of Elusive Quality went off at the longest odds in a field of six in the Phipps but returned to top form at an opportune time and beat Point of Honor to the wire by a nose in a stirring stretch battle to capture the June 13 stakes.
“I had to watch it one more time to be sure,” Sheets said about the narrow margin of victory that earned She’s a Julie a free spot in the year-end Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series. “It was very close.”
So close that it served as another tough loss for Point of Honor, who finished second in a grade 1 stakes for the third time.
“Sometimes I think it’s easier to lose by four lengths than a nose,” trainer George Weaver said. “You start thinking about all the things you could have done differently, but we’re all very proud of her. She ran her eyeballs out once again. There was nothing shameful about this loss. She always gives 110 percent.”
For She’s a Julie, it was her first victory in more than a year. Her previous appearance in the winner’s circle came in May 2019 when she prevailed in the La Troienne Stakes Presented by Inside Access from Chase (G1) at Churchill Downs. Though she was winless in her past five starts, she was third in three of them—each coming in graded stakes company—and her quality and reliability is best reflected in a career record of seven wins, two seconds, and four thirds in 19 starts, with earnings of $1,187,880 for her ownership group of Bradley Thoroughbreds, Tim and Anna Cambron, Denali Stud, Rigney Racing, and Madaket Stables.
“Everybody put a lot of effort into this filly,” winning rider Ricardo Santana Jr. said. “Steve said he wanted me to go to New York. She’s doing good. I worked her and we were really happy with her. Steve knows what he’s doing, and I always listen to him.
“To be honest, she’s training unbelievable. When I came from Oaklawn, Steve made me go to Keeneland to work her. When I worked her, I said, ‘She’s training unbelievable.’ She ran her race today.”
Blamed tired after six furlongs in 1:09.86 as Ollie’s Candy scooted clear and led by 2 1/2 lengths in midstretch. But from the back, She’s a Julie, sent off at 14-1, and Point of Honor, the slight $2.00-to-1 favorite with Javier Castellano aboard, came charging in the final sixteenth.
As Ollie’s Candy weakened slightly, the head bob at the wire came down to She’s a Julie and Point of Honor, with the Asmussen trainee ($31.40) getting the nod from between horses by a slim margin.
“I sat in the spot I wanted. I knew she was going to give it to me, and she kicked it in,” Santana said.
Bred in Kentucky by Godolphin out of the Dubai Millennium mare Kydd Gloves, She’s a Julie was bought by Whispering Oaks/Carol Castille for $160,000 from the Blandford Stud consignment at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Point of Honor, a 4-year-old daughter of Curlin owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Stetson Racing, was a neck in front of Ollie’s Candy, reversing their finishes from their previous meeting in the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1). In that April 18 stakes at Oaklawn Park, Ollie’s Candy, a Candy Ride 5-year-old owned by Paul and Karen Eggert and trained by John Sadler, was second, a head back, and Point of Honor was third after breaking poorly.
“It was a tough beat. I’m not disappointed at all. She ran her race,” Castellano said about the Phipps. “I was asking her and she didn’t take off, and I thought I was going to be third, but she kept running and ran a good race. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”
Blamed, trained by Bill Mott, wound up fourth, and stablemate Golden Award was eased, though the Hall of Fame trainer said there was nothing visibly wrong with her after the race.
The two losses were part of a day in which Mott had two seconds and a third from six starts at Belmont Park and Churchill Downs to remain at 4,999 North American victories.