Salty had been knocking at the door of Grade I success for quite some time, falling short at the hooves of champion and race favorite Abel Tasman (Quality Road) on three occasions, but she broke through at the highest level Friday with a victory in the La Troienne. Abel Tasman finished a troubled fourth.

Away well from her rail draw, Salty settled to stalk from a joint second heading into the first turn as MGSW Farrell, who bore out at the break bumping into Abel Tasman, eagerly tugged her way to the head of affairs. Keeping her distance as the pacesetter registered an opening quarter in :24.70, Salty closed the gap a bit as they hit the half in :48.86. Martini Glass drew even with Farrell heading into the fat turn and Salty remained hot on their tails. Farrell quickly disposed of that challenger in the lane, but Salty was just finding her best stride with the help of some right-handed reminders from Tyler Gaffalione and charged through on the fence, hitting the front in the final sixteenth and driving clear to score.

“I thought, and Gary [Barber] did as well, if there was ever a time to take on Abel Tasman it was today,” winning trainer Mark Casse said. “And I have the utmost respect for her, and as great a trainer as Bob [Baffert] is, it’s nearly an impossible scenario, because I don’t believe they’re really that far apart.”

Casse continued, “The biggest thing with our filly is last race she didn’t switch leads until about 100 yards before the wire, and it probably cost her her last race. And it wasn’t from lack of trying, but Tyler knew from the beginning, he wanted to get her to switch leads. And she did it well today and you saw her, she finished extremely strong.”

The gutsy Farrell held second over Martini Glass. Favored Abel Tasman ran in her usual position at the back of the pack through the opening half and charged up to mid-pack when popped the question by Mike Smith on the backstretch run. However, she did not display her trademark powerful late kick in the lane and checked in fourth, a neck behind Martini Glass.

“It was her first race back,” Smith said of the beaten chalk. “She made a nice move around the turn and just got tired through the lane. It was just the way the race set up. I really wish the other pace wouldn’t have scratched out of there. That really turned the race into a sprint for home. We weren’t expecting that, of course, and once the scratches came out, being that it was her first race back, I didn’t want to get really aggressive with her early and have her get tired late. I was just gambling, hoping I was a whole lot the best, but those are just nice mares and I underestimated them a little bit. In saying that, though, I’m sure she got a lot out of the race and she’ll come back very well. That race didn’t set up at all for her.”

Winner of the GII Gulfstream Park Oaks last term, Salty finished fifth in her last trip beneath the Twin Spires in last year’s GI Kentucky Oaks, won by Abel Tasman. Second to that rival in Belmont’s GI Acorn S. last June and third to the Eclipse winner a month later in the GI CCA Oaks, the bay completed the trifecta in the GI Alabama S. and failed to fire when seventh in the GI Cotillion S. in September, after which she was shelved for the season. Returning a winner in a Gulfstream optional claimer Mar. 1, Salty could only manage fifth last time in Keeneland’s GI Madison S. Apr. 7.

Pedigree Notes:

Salty is the seventh Grade I winner for red hot stallion Quality Road, who sired his first champions last year in Abel Tasman and Caledonia Road. The winner is out of SP Theycallmeladyluck, who is a daughter of GSW Vegas Prospector. The 13-year-old mare has since produced a now-2-year-old colt by Candy Ride (Arg), who summoned $800,000 at Keeneland September, and a yearling filly by American Pharoah. She was bred back to Into Mischief.

SOURCE: TDN 5/4/18

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