Note: Here is a fuller recap of the Grade I First Lady since space restrictions in the paper will limit it to a few graphs in print:
It has taken a couple years to reach fruition, but Frank Jones’s Tapitsfly is finally becoming everything her early returns suggested she would.
In a display of bravery and talent, the 5-year-old daughter of Tapit emerged the victor after a prolonged stretch battle with Grade I winner Daisy Devine to capture the Grade I, $350,000 First Lady Stakes over the Keeneland turf by half a length.
After missing her whole 3-year-old season with various injuries and having just four career wins coming into this year, Tapitsfly has now notched three graded stakes victories including two Grade I triumphs in 2012. The winner of the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf scored her first top level victory when she wired the field in the Grade I Just a Game on the undercard of the Belmont Stakes but took the rally tactic this time out, coming six wide under jockey Jose Lezcano from the pack and digging in while being carried out even further by Daisy Devine in the lane.
“She’s always game, she’s been nothing but good for us,” said trainer Dale Romans. “As long as you give her a good course she shows up. It looked like she was in comfortable stride and that’s the main thing with her. And if it gets into a dog fight, she’s going to win.”
Fellow Grade I winner Summer Soiree led the field of six to the stretch after going a half in :47.26 but gave way in what was just her second start this year. Daisy Devine, winner of the Grade I Jenny Wiley this April, took command but was gradually worn down in her first start in five months.
“The five horse (Summer Soiree) was herding her all over the place, which didn’t help her cause,” said Andrew McKeever, trainer of Daisy Devine. “Still she was probably still second best. With a (prep) race in her, she might have won today.”
Final time for the one mile race was 1:35.44.
In rebounding off sixth place finish in the Ballston Spa at Saratoga in August, Tapitsfly put herself in position for a possible Breeders’ Cup run – but the question is where. The Filly and Mare Turf would require the gray mare to stretch out beyond what has been her ideal distance but going in the Mile would mean taking on males.
“The problem with the Breeders’ Cup is there is probably not a great spot for her,” Romans said. “We’d have to run in the Mile against the boys but we’ve done sillier things. To be a multiple Grade I winner at this time in her career is really special.”