Emma's Encore scores upset
Trainer Allen Jerkens lived up to his nickname of the "Giant Killer" on Saturday when saddling Emma's Encore to a 2 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride Stakes at Belmont Park. Campaigned by Brenda Mercer and Peter A. Berglar, the Congrats filly was sent off the 39-1 longest shot against her five rivals, finishing six furlongs on the fast dirt in 1:08 4/5 to pay $80, $26 and $61. Jockey Junior Alvarado allowed Emma's Encore to settle in the rear of the field as 1-5 favorite Agave Kiss and Jamaican Smoke battled it out on the front end through blistering splits of :21 2/5 and :44. The unbeaten Agave Kiss showed signs of trouble entering the turn and quickly fell back in the lane as Jamaican Smoke took command with Tu Endie Wei keeping in close attendance. Emma's Encore was running well off the rail and angled to the center of the track down the stretch, powering past Jamaican Smoke and Tu Endie Wei to earn her first stakes victory. Jamaican Smoke got her neck in front of Tu Endie Wei on the wire to take second, and it was another 7 1/2 lengths back to Sea Island. Agave Kiss was two lengths behind in fifth, while Gypsy Robin completed the field in last. Emma's Encore was routed in her only prior stakes attempt, finishing a well-beaten last of eight in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks in late March. That 1 1/8-mile contest was the dark bay filly's only try past seven furlongs, and Jerkens cut her back to seven-eighths for her next start, an optional claimer at Belmont Park. The sophomore lass did better while reverting in distance to be second in that May 16 event, and, by conquering the Victory Ride, improved her career mark to 9-3-1-1, $162,958. Bred in Florida by Equest Thoroughbreds, Emma's Encore was a bargain $2,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase. She is the first stakes winner out of the Wild Again mare French Opera, who is a full sister to Group 3 victress Wild Emotions, and counts as her third dam the stakes-winning King's Bishop mare La Reine Rouge. That one is best known as the granddam of ill-fated 2006 Kentucky Derby star Barbaro. Others of note in this female family include multiple Grade 2 veteran During, Grade 3-scoring sire Green Alligator, Grade 1-placed multiple stakes heroine Lucky Lavender Gal and Barbaro's dam, dual Grade 2-placed La Ville Rouge.