A heartbreaking start to the month of October turned more pleasant for owners Robert and Lawana Low Oct. 9 at Keeneland when less than a week after losing one of their top horses, Magnum Moon, to laminitis, their promising 2-year-old filly Sweet Melania cruised to victory in the $200,000 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes (G2T).
The victory in the 1 1/16-mile grass test—the last Breeders' Cup Challenge qualifier this year—provided her with a guaranteed paid berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1T) at Santa Anita Nov. 1.
Sweet Melania, ch, 2/f
American Pharoah — Sweet N Discreet, by Discreet Cat
Owner: Robert E. and Lawana L. Low
Breeder: St. Elias Stables, LLC (KY)
Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher
Jockey: Jose L. Ortiz
Information provided by Equibase at time of entry.
American Pharoah stands at Ashford Stud.
KEESEP2018 • $600,000 • Consignor: Gainesway, agent • Buyer: West Bloodstock / Robert & Lawana Low.
"Winning any kind of stakes race, a "Win and You're In" stakes race, it's fantastic," Robert Low said. "We're looking forward to going to California."
Based on Sweet Melania's performance, she could go to the Breeders' Cup as one of the leading contenders. After being aggressive passing the grandstand the first time, she was otherwise perfect. She spurted clear from favored Jezebel's Kitten down the backside with a half-mile split in :48.01, opened on the second turn with six furlongs in 1:13.22, and then quickened away from her 13 rivals to cross the wire 5 1/2 lengths in front.
"As soon as I completely got the lead, she relaxed well and I cruised until the quarter pole," winning rider Jose Ortiz said. "When I asked her to go, she switched leads and gave me a great turn of foot."
On a good turf course, Sweet Melania finished in 1:43.13, the second-fastest time in the race's 29-year history behind Solvig's stakes record of 1:42.21 in 1999. She paid $8 as the second choice.
Late-running fillies rallied to finish behind the winner, notably 45-1 longshot Witez, who closed from 12th to grab the runner-up spot, three-quarters of a length in front of third-place Ask Bailey.
"She overcame getting in a little traffic turning for home, but she came out of it and ran a big race," said Witez's jockey, Calvin Borel.
The 2-1 Jezebel's Kitten, winner of the Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies Stakes at Kentucky Downs in August, faded to fourth after chasing the pace.
A daughter of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah , Sweet Melania won her first stakes Wednesday after finishing second in the Aug. 29 P. G. Johnson Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. She won a maiden race at Saratoga this summer in her third race for Todd Pletcher.
Pletcher also trained Magnum Moon, who won a division of the 2018 Rebel Stakes (G2) and the Arkansas Derby (G1) before being injured last June in a workout. He developed laminitis recovering from that injury.
The victory was the fourth in the Jessamine for Pletcher, who won with Ocean Drive in 2002, Paddy's Daisy in 2004, and J'ray in 2005. Pletcher is the winningest trainer of Keeneland stakes races with 55.
In a winner's circle interview, Robert Low credited bloodstock agent Jacob West for the purchase of Sweet Melania, a $600,000 buy last year at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale from the Gainesway consignment. Bred in Kentuckyby St. Elias Stables, she is out of the stakes-winning Discreet Cat mare Sweet N Discreet.
The Jessamine produced a next-out winner of the Juvenile Fillies Turf when Rushing Fall won both races in 2017. Last year's Jessamine winner, Concrete Rose, ran eighth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf before developing into one of the leading 3-year-old grass fillies of 2019.