Sent off as the 7-2 second choice in the five-furlong turf contest, Perfect Step, under Hall of Fame rider Edgar Prado, was content to sit off a contested early pace set by the favored R Free Roll, winner of the Tiger Lily Handicap in her turf debut in June. Known for her trademark early speed, R Free Roll had company on the front end, as Keith J. Davis’ Angie’s Prim Lady was quick to pressure the leader through fractions of 21.44 seconds for the opening quarter and 43.92 for a half-mile. As those two separated themselves from the rest of the field, Perfect Step ran along comfortably in third, just ahead of Our Liberty Bay and Whisper Hill Farm’s Zamquick, as Red Minx trailed the field.
Turning for home, Angie’s Prim Lady began to gain the advantage over R Free Roll, but the closers were bearing down on the top duo. Perfect Step ($9.20, $4.20, $3.80) ran right by the early leaders while three-wide to claim an unchallenged victory, stopping the clock in 56.08 seconds, while Zamquick ($3.80, $3.00) closed from farther back to gain the place. Angie’s Prim Lady ($5.60) held on for third over Red Minx. R Free Roll faded to fifth, ahead of Our Liberty Bay.
“The race played out exactly like it was supposed to on paper,” winning trainer Peter Walder said. “The two speeds went at it, and we picked up the pieces.”
“It’s not too often the race plays out exactly as you thought it would,” he added. “I have to give my partner (Newman) credit for pushing me to go in this race. I was a little leery of going in there and coming back kind of quick. He was on me like white on rice to go in this race.”
The 6-year-old daughter of Congrats has not lost in four starts since July, when she drew off by three lengths in front-running fashion in a $25,000 optional claimer at Gulfstream on July 5. In her ensuing start, the Illinois-bred showed her versatility while coming from off the pace to notch a similar 2 ¼-length score three weeks later. That was the day Walder and Newman claimed her for $25,000. In Perfect Step’s first start off the claim, Walder and Newman stretched her out, and when trying the 7 ½-furlong distance for the first time on Aug. 28, the mare led wire to wire for a third straight winning performance. A step up to stakes competition – now proven to be a successful one – was imminent.
“Again, I have to give Mr. Newman credit for picking her out,” Walder said. “I did my homework and pulled the sheets, watched videos, looked at her when she came over, and she just seemed like a consistent sort. She was well worth the money when we claimed her. We stretched her out last time, because she came from off the pace when we claimed her. She’s just a very versatile horse who seems to obviously be getting very good right now and loves this turf course.”
“Peter’s giving me a little more credit than I deserve,” said Newman, whose mother Sheila was on hand to lead Perfect Step into the winner’s circle. “It’s a partnership. When we both agree on horses, our winning percentage is fantastic. We’re very, very excited. I really did this to have something with my mom, who lives down here – I live in Georgia – and provide pleasure for the both of us. It’s done that and more.”
The win also served as a wedding gift of sorts for Walder, who tied the knot with fiancée Rita Santos over the weekend.
“It’s a very nice wedding present,” he said. “It’s my first win as a married man!”