Japan's Red Desire displayed form worthy of her favorite status in the 2,000-meter G1 Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 2. She was bested at the finish line, however, as part of a three-way, thrilling drive with Changing Skies and Ave that saw Ave the winner by a head. Red Desire finished in third place 3/4 length behind Changing Skies in a field of seven fillies and mares.
Red Desire ran smoothly under the guidance of American rider Kent Desormeaux. She patiently tracked the leader from the inside under a firm hold, then found enough space to maneuver into the two path with 400 meters to go. She discovered a huge hole as she settled into the stretch and accelerated to the front, digging in stubbornly with the others in hot pursuit before weakening into third.
The race was won by the 4-year-old English-bred filly Ave, who unleashed a powerful bid under Javier Castellano that sent her surging in the final stages between Red Desire and Changing Skies to score an upset win. She prevailed in 2:08.54 on yielding turf.
The winner, trained by Roger Attfield, took advantage of the extremely slow early fractions -- 53:54 for the first 800 meters, 1:19.19 for 1,200 meters – set by Gozzip Girl with Shared Account tracking in second. The Danehill Dancer-sired Ave was thus able to fully utilize her late stretch kick.
Castellano said Attfield had phoned him specifically before the race to tell him to make sure he kept Ave covered up. "That was on my mind today, cover up and relax," Castellano said. "She sat beautiful right behind the horses, that's where I wanted to be. I was kind of worried turning for home a little bit the way the pace developed -- I thought they would explode. I'm very fortunate -- my filly she responded very well."
Red Desire finished 3 lengths in front of Keertana, who was followed by Shared Account, Forever Together and Gozzip Girl, in that order. Desormeaux said he was thrilled with the race Red Desire put in considering she had not run since May and had just traveled from Japan. "Cornering for home I didn't think I could lose,'' Desormeaux said. "I think this sets her up for a monstrous effort. I can't wait to ride her back.''
"She did well," agreed Nobutaka Tada, racing manager for owner Tokyo Horse Racing Co., Ltd. "She's been off for five months, it was soft ground and there was no pace – she had many things against her. It was unlucky for her to finish third, but she was brave."
Trainer Mikio Matsunaga, who in his jockey days had ridden together with Desormeaux in Japan, was positive. "I think it was good for a prep. If you were to judge it by looking at the overall picture -- coming back after a layoff, the long haul over, her first race in the U.S. – I'd give her ample passing marks. I'm looking forward to working toward the big race," Matsunaga said referring to the Nov. 5 Breeders' Cup G1 Filly & Mare Turf. The Breeders' Cup is being run this year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
After her debut win in January of 2009, Red Desire aced her next race and advanced to the top-level Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas), where she placed second. After she was runnerup in the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks), she won in the G1 Shuka Sho (third leg of the filly's triple crown), then finished the year with a third in the Japan Cup. This year two of her three starts were in Dubai, where she turned in a surprise win of Round Three of the Al Maktoum Challenge (G2) on March 4 at Meydan, followed by an 11th-place finish in the Dubai World Cup on March 27. Her most recent start was the Victoria Mile on May 16 at Tokyo, where she finished in fourth by a length.
A daughter of Manhattan Cafe by the Caerleon mare Great Sunrise, Red Desire was bred at Shadai Farm on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. She now has 4 wins and 3 seconds in 11 races, including both those at home and abroad.
Ave, owned by Three Chimneys Racing and Trevor Harris, was a G3 winner in Ireland last season, and made her U.S. debut in May. Bred by Plantation Stud, she has a 5-2-3 record in 14 career races. She is out of the In the Wings mare Anna Amalia.
Ave paid $23 to win. Red Desire returned $4.00 to show at the windows in American parimutuel betting on the G1 Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes.
The $500,000 race was named for Flower Bowl, winner of the 1956 Ladies Handicap at Belmont during her racing career, and a producer of multiple stakes winners. The Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes, with a post time of 3:59 p.m. local time, was the seventh race on the 11-race Saturday Belmont card. Red Desire carried 121 lbs (just under 55 kg) , 2 pounds (almost 1 kg) more than the winner.
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