By Duane Fonseca
Godolphin handler Charlie Appleby might have pinched himself in disbelief after two top-tier strikes either side of the Atlantic on Saturday.
Hours after Adayar stormed to a surprise victory in the Derby at Epsom, Althiqa brought up a second victory when landing the Grade 1 Longines Just A Game Stakes at Belmont Park in New York.
Appleby might have been disappointed a few days ago with Rebel’s Romance being withdrawn from the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes on account of an infection in one of its hind legs, but after Adayar got the celebrations underway in England, it got better for the Newmarket based handler, who nailed the 28th running of the Just A Game with the 4yo Dark Angel filly.
Ridden by Mike Smith, Althiqa led a 1-2 for Appleby and Godolphin taking over from the Luis Saez driven Summer Romance, who chased him home finishing three fourths of a length in arrears. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum had won the race in 1994 when it carried Listed status, with Smith riding the William Mott schooled Elizabeth Bay to victory.
Smith kept the English-bred gray comfortable in eighth in the 10 horse field as Saez took Summer Romance to the front in the 1600m contest. Smith was patient and asked Althiqa to go in the straight. Once the question was popped, Althiqa responded with a fierce rally along the rail, which saw her pass seven horses in the final 400m, including stablemate Summer Romance, to win with a time of 1:33.90.
Summer Romance was another length and three quarters ahead of George Weaver’s Daddy Is A Legend, who took third under Manny Franco.
The victory was Althiqa’s third in stakes company, following a victory in last year’s Listed Prix Amandine at Deauville in France and this year’s Group 2 Cape Verdi at Meydan.
Appleby said: “We’re obviously delighted with it and we knew we had two competitive fillies. It’s one of those days when we prepped well, I was confident they would run a big race and they justified it.
“They are two fillies who ran well over the winter in Dubai in Group 2s—one (Summer Romance) won the Balanchine and the other won the Cape Verdi—and they came out there to America and put it to the sword again.
“It’s a great effort by the team there and we might think about leaving them there for Saratoga. Althiqa hit the line strong enough and she wasn’t stopping. It was an opportunity to get a Group 1 and luckily we did.
“Mike gave us our first Grade 1 in the Breeders’ Cup with Outstrip, so it’s great to team up again. With Rebel’s Romance earlier this week and this, it’s just the ups and downs of it all. We’ve seen it here in the UK and you just have to roll with the punches.”
Smith was elated and said: “We laid midpack. She’s got a big heart and she’s very, very honest, so she’s going to run good. You’re just going to have to make a trip when it’s time to move on. I was actually going to tip out, but she kind of leaned in like she wanted to drop to the fence, so I just let her. It was a small hole, but [Appleby] told me she had a big heart and she got on through there. She might suit American racing really well. We might want to keep her here.”
Summer Romance’s rider Saez said: “She ran pretty hard. I thought we were going to win. She never gave up. She came into the stretch running and then Mike Smith came really fast. We just got caught. She never gave up and she tried to the wire.”
The win improved Appleby’s record to six wins and four seconds from 17 North American starts and improved his earnings among such to $3,279,620. Appleby said he would consider both Althiqa and Summer Romance for the Grade 1 Diana on 17 July at Saratoga Race Course.