Fergal Lynch rides Pass the Champagne to victory in the Ruffian Stakes at Belmont Park.  CHELSEA DURAND

RACING: 3yo filly comes up big for Walsh

Brendan Walsh reached a career highlight on Friday when he saddled Godolphin’s Pretty Mischievous to victory in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. The 3-year-old homebred filly won the companion race to the Kentucky Derby by a diminishing neck under Tyler Gaffalione. She paid $22.74 to win. 

Pretty Mischievous broke from the far outside stall in the 14-filly scramble and was positioned behind the leaders. She advanced around the far turn and opened up a three-length lead straightening for home. The wire came just in time as she had a rival bearing down on her in the final strides. 

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“The trip worked out perfectly,” Gaffalione said. “I stayed out of her way and she took me the whole way. What an incredible filly.”

“This is the kind of thing you dream about, to win a Grade I, especially the Oaks at Churchill Downs,” Walsh said. “It’s a long way from Cork in Ireland. It’s indescribable, it’s exactly what we’re here for, and why these guys (Godolphin) breed these good horses, and why everybody works so hard.”

While the focus was on Kentucky, Fergal Lynch was making hay in New York. He rode Pass the Champagne to victory in the Grade 2 Ruffian Stakes at Belmont Park. Horse and rider sat off the pace, moved up approaching the quarter pole and quickly drew off entering the stretch. They reached the wire five and one-half lengths in front. The win price came back $17.00. 

Lynch hung around New York for the Sunday card only to see his mount in the stakes race scratch out. Yet, it wasn’t time wasted. He rode Clitheroe to victory in the sixth race, a first-level allowance race at seven furlongs on the lawn. The 4-year-old filly had to contend with a bevy of rivals down the lane but she was a neck clear at the wire. She paid $27.80 to win. 

They ran the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay at Belmont Park on Friday, drawing only four distaffers to run 11 furlongs over the turf. The race basically turned into Chad Brown vs. Christophe Clement and Ireland vs. Germany. The final result was a win for Brown and Ireland as favored Higher Truth, a 5-year-old mare, led throughout to score by almost two lengths under Manuel Franco. She paid $4.50 to win. Irishmen David Hanley and Mike Ryan own Higher Truth in partnership with Jeff Drown. The mare is a product of the Churchtown House Stud of Mallow, Co. Cork. 

  Michelle Nevin is off to a quick start at the Belmont Park meet. She sent J and N Stable’s Mz Big Bucks out to a maiden-breaking score in the nightcap on Thursday’s opening day card. The 4-year-old filly led throughout in this six-furlong sprint over a muddy surface, winning by one and one-half lengths under Jose Gomez. She paid $19.20 to win. 

On Saturday, Nevin sent out Jay Em Ess Stable’s Union Lights to victory in the third race, a claiming mile over the fast main track. Romero Maragh brought the 4-year-old gelding home in front by one-half length for an $8.90 pari-mutuel reward. 

Sean McDermott sent out his first winner of 2023 when South Branch Equine’s Who’s Counting, a 5-year-old homebred gelding, won Friday’s eighth race, an allowance route on the sod, at Laurel. William Humphrey got him home in front by one length for an $8.60 pari-mutuel reward.