FORMER Leading USA First Season Sire and now Vinery Stud resident Congrats sired his ninth individual stakeswinner last weekend when 3YO filly Emma’s Encore triumphed in the Victory Ride Stakes (Gr.3) at Belmont Park in New York.
The Allen Jerkens trained filly came from well off the speed to round up her rivals, including the previously unbeaten Agave Kiss (1/5 fav, unbeaten in 6 starts), to post an emphatic 2 3/4-lens win in the $150,000 feature.
“She broke really good, really sharp and got herself comfortable,” winning jockey Junior Alvarado said.
“By the five-sixteenths pole, she started to pick it up and I said to myself, Wow, they’re going to have to be running today for her to get beat because she picked it up right away and gave me a nice, good kick.”
Emma’s Encore is one of 101 individual winners sired by Congrats with the A.P Indy striking at a fantastic 70% percent strike-rate.
“Of those 101 winners, 22 already carry black-type,” Vinery’s Conor Phelan commented.
“He has sired four Grade One performers, two of those were Grade One winners from his first crop. He is becoming known as a very prolific sire in the USA and we can’t wait for his first Australian foals to start arriving at the end of this month.”
The Victory Ride was widely viewed as a one-horse race. Undefeated Agave Kiss went off at prohibitive 3-10 odds in the six-horse field as the New York-bred filly sought to extend her undefeated race streak to seven.
As expected, Agave Kiss, who had never been behind at any call in her six previous starts, took the lead under Ramon Dominguez while closely pursued by Jamaican Smoke and Javier Castellano. The favorite set a scorching first-quarter-mile fraction of :21.46 but was soon passed by Jamaican Smoke as they rounded the turn in the six-furlong sprint.
Turning for him, Jamaican Smoke continued to lead, stopping the timer in :44 for a half, while being pursued by Tu Endie Wei, who had also passed a tiring Agave Kiss.
After Tu Endie Wei engaged Jamaican Smoke nearing the eighth pole with five furlongs completed in :56.19, Emma’s Encore was urged along by Alvarado and mounted a sustained drive that resulted in the filly taking the lead within the final sixteenth of a mile.
Emma’s Encore continued on for a 2 3/4-length triumph in a final time of 1:08.89, with Jamaican Smoke holding off Tu Endie Wei for second. They were followed by Sea Island, Agave Kiss, and Gypsy Robin.
The winner, trained by the masterful 83-year-old Allen Jerkens for owners Brenda Mercer and Peter A. Berglar, is a Florida-bred daughter of Congrats from the Wild Again mare French Opera. Emma’s Encore was a $2,000 Keeneland September sale yearling in 2010 bought prior to Congrats burgeoning success.
The Victory Ride marked the first stakes triumph and third win in nine starts for Emma’s Encore, who has earned $162,958. It was the third win for the filly in six starts since being turned over to Jerkens.
“I saw her break (on the television monitor), and then I couldn’t find her because I didn’t have the energy to walk out here,” Jerkens to Bloodhorse.com. “ I finally made it. I thought I was going to pull a Walter Brennan. Remember that movie (“Kentucky,” released in 1938)? He died when he got to the winner’s circle.
Jerkens said he would consider the Prioress (Gr. I) at Saratoga on Aug. 4 as the next start for Emma’s Encore and possibly the Aug. 25 Test Stakes (gr. I).