Four years after losing Keeneland's Grade I Spinster Stakes via disqualification, presenting sponsor Juddmonte Farms got to keep its own hardware when 3-year-old filly Emollient unleashed a last-to-first rally few knew was in her to capture the $500,000 test by 11/4 lengths over Summer Applause.
The principals behind Juddmonte already had amassed one decidedly angst-ridden outcome during their eight years sponsoring the Spinster Stakes. After the field of 11 sprung forth for Sunday's 58th running of the 11⁄8-mile race, the consensus was that the farm's latest attempt to win the race with one of their own wasn't going to end well this time either.
For a filly who has been most effective rating close up, the last thing Juddmonte wanted to see from its homebred Emollient was her sitting last down the backstretch after missing the break.
Trainer Bill Mott admitted to being "horrified." At that point however, he was recounting his tale of woe having just witnessed his owners present the winning trophy to themselves.
Juddmonte's homebred Proviso crossed the wire first in the 2009 edition of the race but was taken down, ironically enough in favor of Mott-trainee Mushka, because of interference in the stretch.
"After Proviso a few years ago, I was looking around saying "There's no inquiry sign up is there?'" said Juddmonte's farm manager, Garrett O'Rourke, shortly before he accepted the trophy from Juddmonte president Dr. John Chandler. "I said to Bill (Mott), 'Let's keep on doing this until we eventually win it, but don't put any other runner in here against us.'"
Though Emollient was facing older fillies and mares in the Spinster, the betting public which made her the race favorite recalled her ability over the Keeneland Polytrack. She won the Grade I Ashland Stakes this April by 9 lengths after being wheeled back on one week's rest.
The daughter of Empire Maker later added a win in the Grade I American Oaks over the Hollywood Park turf in July but was coming in off an eighth-place finish in the Grade I Garden City Stakes at Belmont, where she didn't get away from the gate with any gusto there either.
"Typically in the past, she would break a little better than that," Mott said. "It's not that she's ever been a good gate horse but you saw her here in the spring and she broke much better. Today was just a different way of doing it I guess."
Slow as Emollient got away, jockey Mike Smith made the wise move to not force the issue and let her get comfortable while pacesetter Sisterly Love ran through a opening quarter in :23.60 and a half mile in :47.30.
"I thought she would start picking them off down the backside and when she didn't I thought 'Gosh she's not going to fire today,'" O'Rourke said.
Smith had already gotten his cue that his filly was on the bridle, though. And when the field swept around the final turn, Emollient got herself rolling five wide with Summer Applause matching strides inside as they each set down for the stretch run. Emollient edged away about a dozen strides before the wire, hitting the teletimer in 1:47.75 for her fifth win in 10 career starts.
"She's been away a step slow and I think it's a new game she wants to play," Smith said. "When she did it again today I thought, 'OK, I'll take you back farther than I've ever taken you back.'
"She probably took back further than she wanted to be but when she locked on I knew she would be OK and I knew she was going to run well."
Whether Emollient runs again this year is still up in the air. Though she is stakes-placed on the dirt, Mott and O'Rourke ruled out sending her to the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita next month with a start in the Filly & Mare Turf also tenuous.
"We'll talk about it but she's been on the go all season," O'Rourke said. "Any filly that wins three Grade Is in a year makes her very special and that proves that the race here in the spring was no fluke."
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Twitter: @horseracinghl. Blog: Horseracing.bloginky.com.