Joel Rosario’s reputation as one of the best finishers in the sport was on full display before the Monmouth Park faithful on July 17 as the veteran jockey swept the first three graded stakes on the Jersey Shore card, including a determined drive aboard Graceful Princess to take the $250,000 Molly Pitcher Stakes at odds of 14-1.
Before getting legged up by Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher in the 1 1/16-miles Molly Pitcher, Rosario had already used his powerful skillset to guide Dr Post to victory in the Monmouth Cup Stakes (G3) and get Great Island to mount a last-to-first rally in the $150,000 WinStar Matchmaker Stakes (G3). When Rosario swung Graceful Princess out wide coming into the stretch after rating fourth through fractions of :24.02 and :46.99 set by Mrs. Danvers, it became another trademark effort from the one the nation’s elite riders.
Rosario urged Graceful Princess past Bajan Girl and Our Super Freak battling to the wire, getting up in the late stretch to win by three-quarters of a length while stopping the teletimer in 1:41.67 over a fast track.
“It was a very good performance. I came into today thinking I had some chances (he swept the three Grade 3 stakes on the card, winning the WinStar Matchmaker, the Monmouth Cup and the Molly Pitcher) but you don’t know. You have to have the right horses.
“I don’t think she has run quite this well before but today she was ready and she won a tough race and proved she was ready for this kind of company. The pace was perfect. I found a spot outside and she was clear and it looked like she liked being there. After that it was all her. She looked like she was enjoying herself out there.”
In addition to earning her first graded stakes win, Graceful Princess’s effort in the Molly Pitcher snapped a five-race losing streak in which she had run fifth in four of those outings. Owned and bred by Whisper Hill Farm, the bay mare had bloodlines that suggested a breakout effort would eventually happen for her as she is by Tapit out of 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace.
“She’s had a couple of poor performances on off tracks so we weren’t sure (about her), other than she came back and trained well,” Pletcher said. “She’s always been a filly who trained like she was capable of doing something like this, so it’s great to see her put it all together. She’s arguably one of the best-bred fillies on the planet. For her to win a race like this is huge.”
Graceful Princess paid out $31.00, $10.80, $6.20 to her backers. Bajan Girl held for second with Our Super Freak third. Vault, the 2-1 favorite, finished fifth.
With the victory, Graceful Princess now sports a record of three wins from 13 career starts with $261,474 in earnings.