R Holiday Mood, Delightful Mary Dead-heat in Ocala Stakes
By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL –As Delightful Mary made a last-ditch lunge to catch pacesetter R Holiday Mood and force a photo to determine the winner of Sunday’s $60,000 Ocala Stakes, it seemed destined that the connections of one of the 4-year-old fillies would walk away from Gulfstream Park dejected while those of the other would celebrate their good fortune.
However, the winner’s circle became the site of dual celebrations when a review of the digital photo of the finish of the mile stakes for Florida-bred fillies and mares couldn’t separate Delightful Mary and R Holiday Mood, resulting in a dead-heat.
“When they crossed the wire I thought she got beat,” said R Holiday Mood’s trainer Todd Pletcher. “I had her entered in an allowance race earlier in the meet, but she tied up and we had to scratch her. I think she’s best at six or seven furlongs, but we thought we’d try her going a mile in this spot and got half-lucky.”
Mark Casse, trainer of 6-1 Delightful Mary, didn’t expect to share the winner’s circle spotlight after watching the finish.
“I thought she got up. I don’t think she saw that other horse down on the inside,” said Casse, whose filly was making only her second lifetime start on dirt and first since finishing third in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
R Holiday Mood was sent right to the lead by jockey John Velazquez, stalked by 4-5 favorite All Due Respect along the backstretch and around the turn. Meanwhile, Delightful Mary rated off the pace by Luis Contreras on the inside before swinging to the outside at the top of the stretch. R Holiday Mood, a 12-1 outsider in the field of seven, repulsed the stretch bid of All Due Respect nearing the wire, only to come under attack along the outside by a surging Delightful Mary. The Todd Pletcher-trained pacesetter had just enough left to hold on to a share in the dead-heat victory with the Mark Casse-trained Delightful Mary.
“I wasn’t able to get her to relax the way I wanted in the first part. I kind of played give-and-take with her a little bit because I didn’t want to fight with her too much. When she switched leads I hit her and she took off. But then another horse (Delightful Mary) came to us and I was like ‘man, after fighting the whole way here comes another,’” Velazquez said of R Holiday Mood. “I was proud of her though, she never gave up.”
Contreras was too close to the action to really determine if Delightful Mary had stuck her nose in front of the pacesetter.
“I had the perfect trip. I was right in behind the speed. I was watching Johnny (Velazquez) the whole way. Both horse’s heads were bobbing up and down and I couldn’t tell if we won or not,” said Contreras, riding his first meeting at Gulfstream after setting a record at Woodbine last year for purses-won.
R Holiday Moon and Delightful Mary ran the mile in 1:37.25. Favored All Due Respect finished a length back in third for leading jockey Javier Castellano, who rode three winners on Sunday’s card.
Casse said that the $300,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28 may be next for the daughter of Limehouse, while Pletcher was undecided about R Holiday Mood’s next start.
“She ran so hard today I don’t think I can bring her back in the Sunshine Millions. That’s probably too close. We’ll see,” Pletcher said.