Ladies Turf: Dalika takes rubber match with Princess Grace

Dalika, ridden by Brian Hernandez, out-finishes 2021 winner Princess Grace in the $1 million Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf. Grace Clark photo

FRANKLIN, Ky. (Sept. 10, 2022) — Bal Mar Equine’s Dalika led all the way to win Saturday’s $1 million Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf, holding off 2021 winner Princess Grace by a neck in their rubber match at Kentucky Downs.

It was a similar performance to their last race, when Dalika led virtually all the way to win by a half-length over Princess Grace in Churchill Downs’ Grade 1 Beverly D. Princess Grace won last year’s Ladies Turf by a half-length.

“We’ve seen that movie before,” said winning trainer Al Stall.

Added owner Paul Varga, who races as Bal Mar Equine: “She loves this course and has really been game on it all three years down here. Run super races.” Dalika won Kentucky Downs’ restricted One Dreamer Stakes in 2020.

Watch Dalika’s victory

By winning the Beverly D., Dalika triggered Kentucky Downs’ incentive that raised the available purse from $750,000 to $1 million if a Grade 1 winner competed. As a German-bred, Dalika was racing for base purse money of $550,000, with the $1 million purse’s other $450,000 available to registered Kentucky-bred horses from Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund supplements. Even so, the $550,000 was the richest purse Dalika has run for in her 29 race career, for which she now has nine wins and seven seconds. Her $334,180 payday brought her earnings to $1,289,036.

The total purse paid out was $726,580.

With Brian Hernandez aboard for the second straight race, Dalika led at every call with favored Princess Grace in closest pursuit, clocking the first quarter-mile in 23.06, the half in 46.17 and three-quarters in 1:10.11. Dalika led by two lengths turning for home and held off the determined Princess Grace, finishing the last eighth-mile in 11.90 seconds to complete the mile in 1:33.53. The final time was 35/100 of a second faster than Somelikeithotbrown won the Gr. 3 WinStar Mint Million earlier on the card.

Hernandez said the strategy was “let her be fast. She’s a fast filly, and you just have to stay out of her way.

“I’ve learned to grab a lot of mane on her and just be a good passenger. Princess Grace came to her, and she saw her from the outside, and she dug back in. I got a little worried for about a jump, but my filly re-engaged. She did the same thing in the Beverly D. But she just went on. She’s nice, and she’s learning to get better as she’s gotten older.”

Paul Varga’s Dalika ran at Kentucky Downs for the third straight year, coming away with two stakes victories (including Saturday’s $1 million Ladies Turf) and a second. Coady Photography

Michael Stidham and Florent Geroux, the trainer and jockey of Princess Grace, said they simply got beat by a very good horse.

“He had dead aim on the winner,” Stidham said. “He came to her and thought he was going to go by, as soon as the gray filly saw her coming she went again. We got beat fair and square, no excuse. I don’t think anyone could have done one thing different. Florent rode her perfect, she broke like a shot. Last year (in this race), she broke slow and had to make up a lot of ground. Today she broke well and put herself right where she needed to be and came to that filly and we weren’t good enough.”

Said Geroux: “A very similar race like last time in the Beverly D. She was setting the fractions and I was sitting in second position and it looked like I was going to get him in midstretch and his filly reengaged. He saw my filly and looked her in the eyes and she had another gear. I thought I was going to get by her and I just could not. That filly was just better today and congrats to the connections.”

Market Rumor and jockey Chris Landeros came from seven lengths off the pace to finish third, beaten 1 3/4 lengths. It was another 1 3/4 lengths ahead of fourth-place finisher Henrietta Topham. Sunny One was fifth, followed by Hendy Woods and Country Chick. Lady Speightspeare, Flippant and Stolen Holiday were scratched.

“You’re facing two Grade I fillies there, with Princess Grace and Dalika,” said Ian Wilkes, trainer of Market Rumor. “So you’re trying to pick up some pieces, and we got third. I’m satisfied.”

Varga bought Dalika as a 2-year-old after she ran in a stakes in France.

“She was German-bred and owned by a great German breeding farm,” he said. “We bought her out of her third race, a French stakes race. We got her back to Al. Did the wintering and first race we had with her was the spring of her 3-year-old year. She really hasn’t missed a beat for four years running.”

Concluded Stall: “She’s an absolute Amazon warrior.”

While this is Dalika’s last season racing, she could run again this year, Stall said.

“She’s a fabulous horse, mare,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what Paul does with her in the breeding shed. Because he can book those stallions like anybody. So we’re not done with her.”

Ladies Turf: Dalika takes rubber match with Princess Grace - The Mint Gaming Hall