Despite a stumble at the start, champion female sprinter Gamine quickly regrouped to deliver a front-end score in the $500,000 Derby City Distaff Stakes Presented by Kendall-Jackson Winery (G1) May 1 at Churchill Downs.
The 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief earned the fourth grade 1 score of her career, completing the seven-furlong test in 1:21.50 by 1 1/2 lengths. She was followed home by Sconsin in second and Estilo Talentoso in third.
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According to Equibase statistics, winning trainer Bob Baffert moved past D. Wayne Lukas as the all-time leader in grade 1 wins with 220. Regular rider Johnny Velazquez was aboard the winner, who is campaigned by Michael Lund Petersen.
Baffert’s first stakes win came in 1982 with March Speed in the Turquoise Futurity at Rillito Park in Arizona. His first grade 1 came with Thirty Slews in the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Gulfstream Park. His second grade 1 win came when Cavonnier won the 1996 Santa Anita Derby (G1; losing by a photo in the Run for the Roses), and the rest have come in bunches. Six of his 569 graded stakes wins have come in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He’ll send out Medina Spirit later in the afternoon.
“That first year, I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not,” he said. “As a Quarter Horse trainer, I was used to winning a lot of races. When I got into the Thoroughbred business I had to stick with it. I had Mike Pegram and Hal Earnhardt who were behind me. Mike believed in me.
“I love Wayne. Wayne set the bar. To me, to be able to even get close to him and tie him and now break his record … I feel proud. He told me I was going to do it.”
“Doing it here is special on a big day like this,” Baffert said. “I’m just happy for Gamine, the connections. She got the job done.”
(L-R): Roberto Luna, John Velazquez with Gamine, and Charlene Petersen head to the winner’s circle
Gamine bobbled at the break of the Derby City Distaff under John Velazquez but quickly collected herself and went to her accustomed spot on the front end. She was able to set reasonable early fractions of :23.15 and :46.08 over a dry, fast track while being chased by Hibiscus Punch , Estilo Talentoso, and the grade 2-winning Sconsin. Sconsin gave a good run at her in the lane as they traveled six furlongs in 1:09.28, but she couldn’t get within a length of the champ.
Gamine, led into the winner’s circle by Charlene Petersen and Roberto Luna, has now won seven of eight starts and has earned $1,286,500. Her lone defeat came going two turns last fall in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1), finishing third (later disqualified to ninth) behind Shedaresthedevil and Swiss Skydiver (eventual 3-year-old champion filly). She bounced back winning the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Keeneland.
Gamine made her 2021 bow April 4 in the Las Flores Stakes (G3) at six furlongs at Santa Anita park. She won that by five lengths.
“This is the first time she’s run in front of a crowd,” Baffert said. “Johnny said she was looking around. When she struck away from the gate … that got her going. So many things can go wrong, but once she got clear down the backside I knew we were in pretty good shape.
“She’s just a great filly,” he added. “She’s the only one I didn’t school in the gate this week, and that’s my fault. If you want to feel good go out and bet $2 to win, and she’ll cheer you up. You can count on her.”
A lot of people bet $2; she paid $2.40 as the heavy favorite.
“She probably didn’t need it. I could have run her fresh. She ran well here today. The Breeders’ Cup is the main goal,” Baffert said.
Gamine is out of Peggy Jane, by Kafwain , and bred by Barbara Banke’s Grace Thoroughbred Holdings. Banke’s Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings bred Malathaat , winner of yesterday’s Kentucky Oaks. Gamine was a $220,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale graduate, going to Grand Oaks, Summerfield agent. Petersen’s agent, Donato Lanni, paid $1.8 million for her at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale from Bobby Dodd, agent.
“This filly is spectacular and we loved her when we bred her,” Banke said. “You have to sell some of them, so we did. I’m so glad she’s done as well as she has.
“I’m so happy Malathaat won. Her dam, Dreaming of Julia , was the favorite for the (2013) Oaks and she was t-boned coming out of the gate. She’s a great mare. I’m excited for (owner Shadwell Stable) them.”