As I've been making it known all week the beautiful Cuvee Uncorked made her first graded stakes appearance. At first I was ecstatic, she was making her graded stakes debut, how awesome is that? My stomach plummeted to the ground as soon as I had read which races she was nominated to and who were among the list of other nominees. She had been nominated to the Gazelle, which had she run would have been her first try going two turns, and to make matters even tougher she would run into last year's Juvenile Filly Champion, Stardom Bound. Her other option was the grade two Top Flight, where she would face the daunting task of having to beat Sara Louise, a monster on dirt and the last filly to beat the super filly Rachel Alexandra.
It was only a couple days later I found out that the Top Flight was the route that had been chosen for this talented, yet inexperienced filly. I however was still nervous, both races had been equally tough and represented a daunting task for Cuvee Uncorked in her first try at a graded stakes. When I saw the field assembled for the race I became even more nervous, Justwhistledixie, the filly who was supposed to have given Rachel Alexandra all she could handle in the Kentucky Oaks, before scratching was entered. Don't get me wrong, I had faith in the beautiful daughter of Cuvee, I have and always will believe she had worlds of talent, but she was going up against seasoned and classy foes. A win would not come easily.
As race day drew nearer I began to run over race strategy in my head. Cuvee Uncorked is a speed horse who likes to be on or very near to the lead, but unlike most she is a fighter and will do everything she can possibly do to keep others from overtaking her in the stretch. With this knowledge I knew that if she could be given the lead by the top of the stretch that it would take one heck of a horse to wrestle it away from her. Though, what happened in my dream world and the real world were two very different things.
I sat in front of my T.V., a basket case, waiting for the gates to swing open allowing Cuvee Uncorked to surge onto the track. When they finally did Cuvee Uncorked did exactly what I expected, broke beautifully and went right to the lead. It wasn't long however until Weathered shot up on the inside, snatching away the lead by half a length. I didn't mind this, the pace was not overly fast, Cuvee Uncorked was in a great position and looked like she still had plenty left in reserve.
Then as suddenly as it fell into place everything shattered, like a hammer to a mirror. My heart flew into my throat as I saw the jockey take Cuvee Uncorked back to third, then fourth, then fifth! By the time they entered the stretch Cuvee Uncorked was second to last on the rail with no room to run! As if I were on her back myself, my eyes scanned the field, looking for any possible holes, but the wall in front of her remained solid, forcing her to go wide. By this time they had gone half the length of the stretch and Sara Louise and Justwhistledixie had already distanced themselves from the rest of the pack.
The camera soon left Cuvee Uncorked to focus on the two battling fillies up front and as they crossed the wire it was Sara Louise who courageously held off a persistent Justwhistledixie. As the camera focused on the wire I looked for Cuvee Uncorked, thinking that she would end up fifth. To my surprise she was still battling, crossing the wire in a tight finish for the third spot. After a short time the placings flashed up and Uncorked had done it, she had finished third!
I was so happy for the filly, she showed her courage in such a huge way today. She was taken way off the pace, was bottled up with nowhere to run, and when she finally found room she looked like she would finish a bad fifth. She never quit thought, she never stopped running, and because of that she was able to earn the title of graded stakes placed. It is because of that she will improve and only run better next time out.
She has the talent and she has the heart. I believe that with a cleaner trip she could have very well won the race, but in losing she gained something even more valuable. In losing she gained experience, and because of that she still has upside, she still can grow, and when she does, when she finally puts it all together, mark my words she will be one of the best fillies in training, no matter where she races.