Hall of Famer Snags Fourth Career Win in One-Mile Turf Event
BALTIMORE – Wertheimer and Frere’s homebred Alda got to the lead at the top of the stretch and outran the field to the wire, holding off late bids from Seasons and Arm Candy to capture Friday’s $100,000 Hilltop by a neck at Pimlico Race Course.
The 49th running of the Hilltop for 3-year-old fillies going one mile on the grass was the fourth of six stakes, four graded, worth $1 million in purses on a sensational 14-race Black-Eyed Susan Day program headlined by the 97th edition of the 1 1/8-mile fixture for 3-year-old fillies.
Alda ($17.40), stretched out after a loss going 5 ½ furlongs in her season debut April 9 at Keeneland, finished up in 1:35.06 over a firm turf course. It was the third stakes win of the day for Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez following Spice Is Nice in the $150,000 Allaire du Pont (G3) and Red Ghost in the $150,000 Miss Preakness (G3).
Velazquez has now won the Hilltop four times, the others coming with Excited (2011), Coup (2012) and Miss Temple City (2015). Coup and Miss Temple City were among four previous Hilltop winners for trainer Graham Motion, who also found success with Silent Greeting (1996) and Happy Mesa (2017).
Alda was unhurried racing in fifth as 70-1 long shot Proper Attire posted fractions of 23.34 and 47 seconds, as Serenade a Kitten (35-1) gave chase and Tracy Flick and Phantom Vision led the second flight. Velazquez was able to maneuver his way to the lead around the turn and set Alda down for a drive to the wire and help her to her second career stakes win, having captured the Catch A Glimpse last August over the Woodbine turf.
Seasons edged Arm Candy by a nose for second, with Alda’s stablemate Mia Martina two lengths back in fourth. Bubbles On Ice, the 8-5 favorite, wound up fifth.
The Hilltop is a shortened version of Pimilco’s long-standing nickname, Old Hilltop, in recognition of a large infield hill prominent for viewing races. The hill was leveled in 1938.
$100,000 Hilltop Quotes
Winning Trainer Graham Motion (Alda): “He [Jockey John Velazquez] had plenty of horse. We liked her last year. She came really close in the Grade I in Canada [second in Natalma Stakes at Woodbine, Sept. 20]. I probably misjudged her a little bit by sprinting her the last time. I thought we could get away with it. It obviously set her up well for today. I think this is what she wants to do. How hot is Johnny today? He’s on fire.”
Winning Jockey John Velazquez (Alda): “The horses are running good [for me]. It’s all about the horses.”
Trainer Jimmy Toner (Seasons; 2nd): “She ran a huge race. She went down to her nose at the break. She recovered and [jockey] Jose [Ortiz] didn’t panic. He just let her relax a little bit and finish up good. She tried, I think the last part of it; she hadn’t run in the eight months. Meanwhile, I couldn’t be happier with her effort.”
Jockey Jose Ortiz (Seasons; 2nd):”[After she stumbled], I didn’t rush her and just let her get into a nice rhythm and she did. Just looked for a seam around the quarter pole. I found a good trip, saved some ground around the turn. When I asked her she punched home beautifully. I’m very happy. Off the layoff Jimmy [Toner} had her ready to win. It was unfortunate that she stumbled at the start. I think she ran a monster race and beat one of the top contenders in the division for sure.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen (Arm Candy; 3rd): “She deserves the opportunity to compete at this level, I love how she acted today. It was a little concerning her saddled slipped back quite a bit on her. There’s not a lot to her. We will discuss running her in a breast collar in the future, but I thought Ricardo [Santana Jr.] gave her a really good trip and we are continuously learning more about her.”
Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. (Arm Candy; 3rd): “We had a good trip. She tried hard, gave me everything she had. We were just third best.”