MIAMI -- Game Face became a Grade 1 winner for the first time when she drew off to a convincing 6 3/4-length victory over Keep the Peace in Saturday's $350,000 Princess Rooney Handicapx at Calder.
Game Face, who dominated the filly and mare sprint division last winter at Gulfstream Park, had tried Grade 1 competition on two previous occasions in her career. She was a distant third in the Acorn at 3 and finished sixth over a sloppy track this spring in the Humana Distaff.
Trainer Todd Pletcher freshened Game Face and pointed her for the Grade 1 Princess Rooney following her fifth-place effort in the Grade 2 Vagrancy on May 24. And she came back better than ever while benefitting from a picture-perfect ride by jockey Edgar Prado.
Prado allowed Game Face to rate off the early pace of Keep the Peace, who was stalked early by Dubai Majesty and Jessica Is Back. Game Face moved readily to challenge the leader on the final turn, edged clear without need of urging in early stretch, and steadily increased her advantage to the wire. Keep the Peace continued willingly to outlast Orinoquia for second.
Game Face, a daughter of Menifee, is owned by the Zabeel Racing Stable. She paid $5.60 as the favorite in a field that scratched down to just seven starters. Indian Blessing, who would have been the favorite if she ran, never made the trip to South Florida while Marina Ballerina was declared earlier in the day after developing a minor cough.
"That was a big race. She ran super," Pletcher said by phone from New York after the race. "Everything unfolded just like Edgar and I had spoken about. She was definitely back on her best game today."
Pletcher said the Honorable Miss or Ballerina at Saratoga would be next for Game Face, depending on how much time she needed to recover.
Fast pace aids Not for Silver
When Not for Silver fell nearly 15 lengths off the pace after the opening three furlongs of the Grade 2, $200,000 Carry Back Stakes, even trainer Michael Trombetta thought his colt had very little chance to win the race. But a brutal early speed battle among Truest Legend, Wall Street Wonder, and Prince Joshua ultimately took its toll and Not for Silver ($10) rallied from far back to easily outfinish even-money favorite You Luckie Mann by 4 1/2 lengths.
Jose Lezcano replaced jockey Julian Pimentel aboard Not for Silver. Pimentel was injured in a spill at Penn National on Friday evening.
Early fractions of 21.12 seconds for the opening quarter and 44.49 eventually cooked the early leaders. Not for Silver commenced his rally once leaving the backstretch, angled out entering the stretch, wore down Prince Joshua near midstretch, and won going away.
"I didn't give him much shot after the opening quarter-mile," said Trombetta. "I thought he was too far back. But the race fell apart and I was the benefactor."
Not for Silver completed six furlongs in 1:11.91.
First Passage best of Wolfson trio
First Passage rallied from midpack to outfinish pacesetter Kays and Jays by three-quarters of a length to capture the $200,000 Azalea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Royal Card rallied to finish another three lengths farther back in third.
First Passage, who came from even farther back to win the local prep for the Grade 3 Azalea, was one of three horses trainer Marty Wolfson saddled in the race, along with Royal Card and the unlucky Donttellmewhattodo, who finished fifth after getting knocked back to last after the break.
Underground, a sensational winner of her only previous start at Hollywood Park, was just a brief factor and finished eighth as the 3-2 favorite in the six-furlong Azalea.
First Passage ran the distance in 1:11.22 and returned $9. She is owned by Andrew Rosen.
"She ran to her beauty," said Wolfson. "She was a nervous filly when I first got her but she's really learned to relax. She's got a lot of class and I knew when she started to move at the three-eighths pole she would win."
Wolfson said the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga would likely be next on First Passage's agenda.
* Dashing Debby ($28.20) won the $100,000 J J'sdream Stakes in her career debut, cruising to a 10 1/4-length triumph over 2-1 favorite Miss Delite.
* Little Nick ($15.60) came through a narrow opening in late stretch to outfinish 4-5 favorite Mr. Nightlinger by a neck to win the $100,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint Championship.
* Jackson Bend ($20.40) rallied from well off the pace to wear down D' Funnybone to upset the $100,000 Frank Gomez Memorial Stakes. The pacesetter Mr. Green finished third.