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Daddys Lil Darling All Class in Grade III Modesty Handicap
In her first graded stakes win of the year, Normandy Farm’s homebred Daddys Lil Darling backed up her class and favoritism in the 62nd running of the Grade III $100,000 Modesty Handicap at Arlington International Racecourse under the guidance of Brian Hernandez, Jr.
Trained by Kenny McPeek, the 4-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy tracked third off the pacesetters through early fractions of 22.71, 47.06 and 1:11.14. Coming around the far turn, Daddys Lil Darling began inching her way closer to the front and established a four length lead as they hit the top of the stretch in 1:36.42. Darrell and Sadie Brommer’s Chris Block-trained Prado’s Sweet Ride made an assertive move coming down the top of the stretch but was unable to catch the winner, who took the Modesty Handicap by 2¼ lengths while covering the 1 3/16-mile distance in 1:53.80 over a turf course rated as firm. Godolphin Racing’s Hallie Belle finished another 1½ lengths back in third for Mike Stidham.
“I didn’t give (jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr.) any instructions,” said McPeek. “From the 13-hole it’s tricky and we’ve got complete confidence in Brian, whatever he decided. It was great that she showed early speed – she’s had some races where she kind of went too back and had a hard time getting through traffic, but I don’t know if it was the course or Brian’s hands or whatever, even the class of the race, but it’s a big deal to see her laying closer.”
Daddys Lil Darling gave Hernandez his fifth graded stakes victory of 2018.
“She was the class of the race,” said Hernandez. “The best thing to do with her today was just stay out of her way, let her find her rhythm, and that’s what she did. Kenny had her so prepared today that all I had to do was just kind of be a good passenger, and she’s a Grade I winner, she knows what she’s doing out there – I just let her do her thing.”
McPeek indicated that Daddys Lil Darling could return to Arlington International Racecourse for the Grade I $600,000 Beverly D. Handicap on August 11.
“She’s a world traveler, she’s been everywhere,” said McPeek. “The Beverly D. is such a wonderful race to even participate in, but for her to have this kind of performance going in it’s going to make us pretty confident next month.”
Jockey Jose Lopez was aboard late-closing runner-up Prado’s Sweet Ride and thought that down the stretch there was a chance that he was going to catch the winner.
“I thought that the way she was travelling and the way she was carrying me around the turn I thought we had it for a minute,” Lopez said.
Hallie Belle’s rider Joe Bravo was pleased with the third-place finisher’s effort, despite being taken back further due to an incident on the far turn when Sully’s Dream, who had been dueling out front was suddenly pulled up by jockey Channing Hill.
“I’m really proud of this girl,” Bravo said. “She was sitting there nice. Unfortunately, the 11 horse (Sully’s Dream) was pulled up and took us from being three lengths off the pace to eight lengths of the pace. My horse exploded really nicely. She finished better than anyone in the race.”
The Modesty Handicap was a third lifetime graded stakes victory for Daddys Lil Darling, who won Churchill Downs’ Grade II Pocahontas Stakes at age two and concluded her 3-year-old season with a win in the Grade I American Oaks at Santa Anita on Dec. 30. Winning for the fifth time in 19 starts, the winner’s share of $55,800 boosted her career earnings to $1,306,205.
Daddys Lil Darling paid $5.80, $3.40 and $2.80 while Prado’s Sweet Ride brought back $9.80 and $6.40. Hallie Belle returned $4.20.
The top three finishers receive a free entry with starting fees waived into the Grade I $600,000 Beverly D. on Aug. 11, a “Win and You’re In” event for the Grade I $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3.
Con Te Partiro, Oh So Terrible, Princess La Quinta, Celestial Insight, Church Social, Majestic Angel, Daring Duchess, and Go Baby Run completed the order of running. Sully’s Dream was pulled up at the top of the stretch and vanned off the course for further examination, where it was discovered she had suffered a career-ending injury. La Manta Gris was scratched.