Illuminant Upsets Wekeela in Gamely Stakes
By: Tom LaMarra
It was the first stakes win for Illuminant, who had made 10 previous starts with three wins.
With Flavien Prat riding for trainer Michael McCarthy, Illuminant sat just behind front-running Fanticola through the final turn in the 1 1/8-mile stakes. The 4-year-old filly by Quality Road out of the Polish Numbers mare Sparkling Number drew away from the leader and easily held off Wekeela to win in 1:48.34 on a turf course rated firm.
In her previous start, Illuminant finished third behind champion Tepin and Wekeela in the Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland in April. Illuminant, bred in Pennsylvania by Sycamore Hall Farm, was purchased by Eclipse for $180,000 at the 2014 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. March sale of selected 2-year-olds in training and was withdrawn from the 2015 Keeneland November breeding stock sale
Aron Wellman of Eclipse Partners gave credit to McCarthy for training Illuminant. McCarthy was an assistant to Todd Pletcher before he ventured out on his own.
“This filly is high-maintenance and he has done a great job,” Wellman said. “She ran her heart out last time at Keeneland. Winning big races like this at Santa Anita and other tracks around the country is what it’s all about. Without our partners we wouldn’t be able to do this.
“We’re a Todd Pletcher organization; he’s our main man. As a disciple of Todd’s it just made all the sense in the world for us to support Michael when he hung up his shingle to go out on his own, and I couldn’t be happier for him and his family. He’s got about five or six for us now. Gary (Young) and I are a two-man team at the 2-year-old sales and we found her at the sale in Ocala, Fla., together.”
“It’s pretty exciting to win a race like this,” said McCarthy, who won his first grade I stakes. “I thought she would run well today. She’s a very honest filly, tries hard, and I thought the mile and an eighth would be right up her alley. I didn’t give Flavien a whole of instructions before the race. I didn’t think he needed it.”
Prat got Illuminant out of the gate well and was content to sit behind Fanticola through fractions of :24, :48.04, and 1:12.31 before he made his move on the far turn. Illuminant was in front past the one-mile mark in 1:36.26 and wasn’t threatened.
“I think she improved off her Jenny Wiley third-place finish in her last out,” Prat said. “The turf is a bit softer here and that’s maybe better for her, especially going a mile and an eighth. And here at Santa Anita I feel it’s better if you’re closer to the lead. At Keeneland, it’s a bigger turf course, and when you come from off the pace there, it’s easier.”