Photo: Chelsea Durand / NYRA
Michael Dubb’s Battle Bling was a penultimate winner of Sunday’s $100,000 Women’s Bet for fillies and mares aged 4 years and over, traveling nine furlongs down the high-speed main track at Aqueduct.
Battle Bling made her first start for trainer Rob Atras in the Ladies after being claimed for $62,500 from a second game at 10-1 in an optional claimer on December 19 at the Big A, beating a neck by the winner of the next bet Maiden Beauty.
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“When we claimed her, I was just happy that she ran so well that day because she had a better chance,” Atras said. “Mike Dubb picked her and I liked her, but it was a great claim. We nominated, and it looked like we had a chance with the short field. The weather has been bad lately and training has been interrupted, but she is a beautiful filly. I like her from day 1. I’m glad Mike decided to claim her.”
Battle Bling broke out of post 4 in the Ladies and came out well under Trevor McCarthy, while Gary Sciacca trained Exotic West stumbled on the start from post 1 and knocked off rider Dylan Davis. Exotic West ran behind the field without a rider before the outside rider hugged her and escorted her safely off the track as Davis quickly jumped to his feet.
#4 Battle Bling walks and wins with a lead in the Ladies Stakes at #Aqueduct.
Trainer: Rob Atras
Owner: Michael Dubb
— TwinSpires Racing ?? (@TwinSpires) January 16, 2022
Unbothered by the commotion inside, long shot Vienna Code jumped off to take the lead in the first corner of Its Cold in Dehere, while Battle Bling was pushed back to the last of five under Trevor McCarthy via a first quarter mile in 24, 97 seconds.
With no change in running order over half a mile in 50.91, McCarthy started working on the 4-year-old daughter of Vancouver, closing in on her rivals as the field passed the three-quarter mark and made their way into the final corner.
While Its Cold in Dehere faded from second place as it neared the top of the stretch, post-time favorite Miss Leslie and Battle Bling both took the lead. Vienna Code dug further along the railing and fought Miss Leslie out to her as Battle Bling took command in the middle of the racecourse.
With a sixteenth to the finish, McCarthy gave Battle Bling a strong ride with right-handed encouragement as Miss Leslie continued to gain ground inside her with the late-running Kiss the Girl looming outside her.
Battle Bling had something left in the tank and fought bravely to hold off Miss Leslie by the neck with Kiss the Girl half a length back in third. The last time for the nine furlongs was 1:57.11.
“On paper, it was so beautifully set up,” McCarthy said. “I was able to follow (Miss Leslie), get the jump on her at the quarter post and repel them. The job is a bit tiring. We had a nice cover up and we were able to get her going, open a few lengths and make sure those guys really deserve it.
“My filly is a big, long-term filly,” McCarthy added. “She doesn’t have a lot of punch, but if she does, you’ve got to get her rolling, and she’ll keep going.”
Atras praised McCarthy’s ability to adapt his ride to the slower pace.
“He steered and then noticed there was a little bit of speed and fell back. They were going moderately — not slow but not too fast,” Atras said. “He made a bold move into the corner and I thought that was a great move he made. Trevor is a strong driver and she held on.”
Angel Cruz, number two Miss Leslie’s regular rider, was proud of the 4-year-old Paynter colt’s achievement after entering the Ladies with a three-race win streak.
“My filly kept fighting and did her best,” Cruz said, “at the top of the stretch she came back with a fight. Trevor’s horse came with a good kick. The longer she goes, the better she does. She’s a better filly that goes long.”
Completing the order of finish were Vienna Code and Its Cold in Dehere.
A general steward’s inquiry was conducted to judge the start of the race with regard to Exotic West, resulting in no change in the order of arrival.
Bred in Kentucky by Royal Oak Farm and E. Kiely, Battle Bling’s women’s win was the first win of her career, taking home $55,000 to boost her total purse earnings to $203,867 and break her record to 13 : 3-4-1 .
A $2 win bet on Battle Bling paid $8.70.