Gary Barber’s Uchenna, patiently piloted by Patrick Husbands, rallied last to first to win Holiday Monday’s $105,600 Belle Mahone Stakes, at Woodbine.
Trained by Mark Casse, Uchenna, sharing 9-5 favourtism with Hot Kiss, settled last of six in the 1 1/16-mile route for older fillies and mares as Josdesanimaux ripped of splits of :24.23 and :48.22. Hot Kiss, with Jesse Campbell up, saved all the ground while travelling from third position but with Internal Bourbon and Reserved applying pressure on Josdesanimaux through the final turn, Hot Kiss was shuffled back to last behind a wall of horses.
Husbands, watching from the back of the pack, angled Uchenna wide around rivals at the top of the lane and kicked clear with a tremendous turn of foot for a 1 3/4-length win. Hot Kiss found racing room late in the lane, muscling between Internal Bourbon and Reserved, to close gamely for place. Uchenna covered 1 1/16-miles in 1:43.74.
Husbands was aboard the five-year-old bay for the first time, but felt confident to relax well back of rivals.
“She’s so consistent and looking at the racing form she has this one big kick,” said Husbands, who was winning his 12th added-money event of the meet. “She was loving it racing from behind. Five furlongs out she was enjoying it, and four furlongs out she wanted to be asked but I said, ‘Not yet, not yet.’ At the top of the lane, I chirped at her and she just exploded. She has a serious turn of foot.”
Uchenna, a five-year-old daughter of Fastnet Rock, made the grade in the 2015 edition of the Grade 3 Ontario Matron over 1 1/16-miles on the Woodbine main. Winless in seven starts since her graded score, mostly in graded turf events, Uchenna arrived at the Belle Mahone from a rallying third-place effort in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 Matchmaker Stakes over a yielding turf at Monmouth Park.
Bred in Ireland by Knockaney Stud, Uchenna banked $60,000 in victory while improving her record to five wins and one third form 21 starts.
She paid $5.70, $2.70 and $2.20, combining with Hot Kiss ($3.20, $2.20) for a $15 (3-1) exactor. A 3-1-2 triactor (Whimsicality, $3 to show) was worth $42.90.