Daughter of American Pharoah dominates Jessamine Stakes, locks up Breeders’ Cup bid

It appears American Pharoah’s penchant for domination may have been passed down to his offspring.

Sweet Melania, the 2-year-old daughter of the famed Triple Crown winner, romped to an easy victory in the Grade 2, $200,000 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes in front of an announced crowd of 9,583 at Keeneland on Wednesday, locking up a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita in California on Nov. 1.

Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Jose Ortiz, Sweet Melania went off as the 3-1 second choice in the Jessamine. She trailed 2-1 favorite Jezebel’s Kitten after the first turn. Midway down the backstretch, Sweet Melania moved to the front and drew away from the field, scoring the largest margin of victory in the 29-year history of the Jessamine at 5 1/2 lengths. The victory was worth $120,000 and improved Sweet Melania’s career record to 2-1-2 in five starts.

“The way she broke today I knew she was going to be there,” Ortiz said. “As soon as I completely got the lead, she relaxed well and I cruised to the quarter pole. When I asked her to go, she switched leads and gave me a great turn of foot.”

The Jessamine was the last race of the Fall Meet that provided an automatic berth into a Breeders’ Cup contest.

“Win any kind of stakes race, a “Win and You’re In” race (at Keeneland) is fantastic, so we’re looking forward to going to California,” said Sweet Melania owner Robert Low. “We love this filly and are really excited to see her. I just love this filly. The way she moves; she has that American Pharoah walk. She was great.”

Third horse dies during Fall Meet

In Wednesday’s fifth race, Triggerman fell on the dirt track near the finish line, injuring his front left leg. The 3-year-old son of Cairo Prince was euthanized, becoming the third horse in four race days to die during the Fall Meet.

Jockey Adam Beschizza sustained an injury to his left clavicle during the incident. Keeneland announced that Beschizza was discharged from the track’s First Aid station in stable condition and was being transported to the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital for further evaluation.

Two horses died on the opening day of the meet last Friday. Stella d’Oro, a 4-year-old colt, pulled up early on the turf during the fourth race and was vanned off before being euthanized. Fast Dreamer had to be euthanized after sustaining a leg injury on the dirt track in the fifth race.

Royal connections

Bettors who believe in fate might have a hard time looking past the connections of a certain horse in Saturday’s featured stakes race.

Magnetic Charm is among nine fillies set to compete in the 35th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. Heightening the intrigue in Saturday’s race: The 3-year-old daughter of Exceed And Excel is owned by Queen Elizabeth II.

This will mark the first time the Queen has fielded a horse in her namesake race, which she attended during its inaugural running in 1984.

Queen Elizabeth has owned and bred racehorses since the late 1940s. This will be the fourth time she has started a horse at Keeneland. She won an allowance race during the 2001 Spring Meet with New Assembly, placed second in an allowance in the fall of 2006 and last started a horse in the 2008 Fall Meet, when Medley finished fourth in an allowance.

Magnetic Charm has earned more than $103,000 and won twice in eight career starts. She’ll be looking for her first North American victory on Saturday.

Keeneland Fall Meet

When: Through Oct. 26 (racing Wednesdays through Sundays)

Key info: Gates open at 11 a.m.; general admission is $5, and children 12 and under get in free; post time each day is 1:05 p.m.


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Josh Sullivan has worked at the Herald-Leader for more than 10 years in multiple capacities, including as a news assistant, page designer, copy editor and sports reporter. He is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Lexington native.