Sep 28 2014

Ancient Goddess – Miss Grillo Starter (And Breeders’ Cup Hopeful)

Ancient Goddess

Ancient Goddess with Simon Harris

In a previous article on the topic of horse ownership, we introduced you to Sovereign Stable. Click here to read more about them. As explained in that article, the majority of horses purchased by Sovereign are unraced 2-year olds and yearlings purchased through auctions. However, once in awhile, Sovereign has purchased what Rich Cristiano (Director of Business Development) terms a “ready-made” horse. By his definition, this is a horse that has shown great promise in one or two debut races.

Meet Ancient Goddess, a 2-year old French filly, and the latest “ready-made” horse purchased by Sovereign Stable. She won her second race in France, on June 15, 2014. And, according to Matt Gatsas (President of Sovereign), it was an impressive win. Matt said, “That field was supposedly loaded and it was also against colts; the horse that ran second was supposed to be one of Andre Fabre’s best two year olds, explaining why he was almost even money.  He has since come back to win on July 17th.”

Here is the video of her win in France on June 15. For those of you that can’t speak French, she is #8 in the orange and yellow silks and on the lead throughout.

After watching the video, what impressed me the most was how relaxed she was in the gate and early on the lead, ears pricked, moving on her own without much urging … but when that colt challenged her in the lane, her ears pinned back, and she dug in like a champ. And, according to Matt, she “ran the last 2 furlongs in 23 flat, after cutting all the fractions.” Needless to say, Matt was very impressed with this effort, so much that he said, “This filly has the makings of a superstar. This is the complete package. I knew I had to have her.”

So phone calls were made, Matt found out the filly was for sale, he consulted with the people in his “circle of trust,” an offer was made, they haggled a bit on the price, and voila (as they say in France) … a deal was struck. One of the unique features of this deal, and in my opinion a bit savvy, was the “kicker” that if Ancient Goddess were to win the P.G. Johnson Stakes at Saratoga this summer, the original owners get 50% of the earnings from that race. This insured that the owners had a vested interest in training this filly right up to her shipping to the United States. And according to Rich, this worked out perfectly, as they trained Ancient Goddess superbly, and in fact she had a sharp 7-furlong breeze just before departing France.

After Ancient Goddess arrived in Saratoga, her new trainer, John Terranova said, “This filly is in great shape. She looks like a French Zenyatta. She is very good looking.”

Ancient Goddess being Tacked Up

Ancient Goddess being Tacked Up

On Wednesday, August 20, I met Rich and Matt in Saratoga to witness Ancient Goddess’s first official workout in North America, four furlongs over the Oklahoma turf training track. There was clearly excitement in the air. Some of the partners who have already bought into the Ancient Goddess partnership were in attendance. One partner exclaimed, “I’ve never been so excited for a workout in my whole life.

While we were waiting for her arrival at the training track, I asked Rich and Matt about the plans for her. Both said, “The ultimate goal is the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf race later this year.” The first step in getting to that goal is for Ancient Goddess to run in the PG Johnson Stakes next week (August 27) at Saratoga.

Matt added, “We have no real plans after the P.G. Johnson because of the acclimation issue. We’ve only had her for a week and a half. We need to see how she comes out of the race before we make any plans after that. The win and you’re in Breeders’ Cup races are nice. But, with all of the travel, will that be in her best interest? We’ll have to wait and see.”

At this point Ancient Goddess arrived on the scene, with her exercise rider Simon Harris on board. Rich told me that Simon has ridden some truly great horses over the years, including Bayern, Funny Cide, Bernadini, Blame, Silverbulletday, Point Given, Jazil, Henny Hughes, and several others. Pretty impressive resume for Mr. Harris and he is a regular exercise rider for John Terranova.

The workout went exceptionally well, and Rich described it as follows on the Sovereign Stable website:

“Ancient Goddess worked a very impressive half mile this morning over the grass course at Oklahoma Training Track.  She worked in company with Ireland’s Eye, a 3 year old in the Terranova barn. With the dogs way out on the course today, she was a tad slow away from the pole and broke off behind the colt.  She ranged up on the outside turning for home and came home in 24 flat.  But the most impressive part of the move was the very strong gallop out and exercise rider Simon Harris had all he could do to pull up the filly.”

So it’s all systems go for this exciting filly. Barring anything unforeseen, Ancient Goddess will make her North American debut in the P.G. Johnson Stakes at historic Saratoga race course on Wednesday, August 27, 2014. Click here to read more about Ancient Goddess on the Sovereign Stable website.  Included on their website is complete pedigree information, her race record (PPs), a video link to her first race (different from the one above), a diary of updates since her arrival in Saratoga, and contact information.

Best of luck to Sovereign Stable and Ancient Goddess!


P.G. Johnson Results Recap

Well, the race didn’t go exactly as planned.  Below is the summary prepared by Rich Cristiano for the partners following the race.

Ancient Goddess ran 3rd today in the PG Johnson Stakes at Saratoga. It was an eventful first quarter including being very unsettled in the gate prior to the start. She broke a bit on her heels and then she saw some daylight and quickened on her own and caused a bit of a chain reaction bumping between a couple of horses just before entering the turn.  Importantly, despite all the jostling, she settled nicely going down the backside and relaxed perfectly for him. She was able to get outside at just the right time and looked like she would make a big run down the lane. However Chad Brown’s horse quickened faster and ran on by us. Our filly looked like she might end up 4th at one point but would not let the outside horse by her and finished 3rd beaten 33/4 lengths by the winner. Joel said that she did get a bit tired probably due to the early incidents at the first part of the race. He said he likes our filly a lot and thought she had a ton of upside to her.

Below is the video replay of the race.  Ancient Goddess is #1 in the blue and yellow silks.

Here are some additional comments from Rich following the race:

While we all wanted to win a stake at Saratoga today our filly did show ability and despite being a bit tired she ran on gamely through the lane. She is now stakes placed and we have satisfied our commitment to the previous owners as we will turn over half the net earnings from today’s race.

Back at the barn she cooled out fine and Matt and John will discuss next steps in the coming days. We are still of the opinion we have a high quality Graded Stakes type filly in our barn and we are confident that we can move forward off this first start in the states.

Miss Grillo Stakes Preview

Following her race in Saratoga, Ancient Goddess was shipped down to Belmont Park to prepare for her next race, the Miss Grillo Stakes on Sunday, September 28, 2014.  Below are Rich’s comments sent to the partners in advance of the race.

Ancient Goddess is all set for her first try in Graded Stakes company and we drew perfectly down inside for the Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont this Sunday.  The two post is perfect as the race at a mile and 1/16th starts a bit awkwardly on the turn and inside posts are always preferred in these races. John has done quite a bit of gate work with this filly since her last start in Saratoga so we expect her to get away fine and be forwardly placed against these on Sunday.  She could not have trained any better since her race at Saratoga and she looks great as well as you will see on Sunday.

As you might expect with a possible berth in the Breeders Cup on the line, this came up a very tough race, however from Day 1 our short term goal was to get her to the Breeders Cup and on Sunday we will see if we can achieve that goal by running a big race in a Grade III.

So once again we wish Sovereign Stable, it’s partners, and Ancient Goddess the best of luck in the Miss Grillo Stakes.

Neal Headshot2
By Neal Benoit

2 comments on “Ancient Goddess – Miss Grillo Starter (And Breeders’ Cup Hopeful)

  1. Neal, Thanks for giving us backside access to a stable and a potential star. Your blog offers a perspective unlike a typical journalist or media observer. Thanks for your perseverance and love of the game. I’m looking forward to future posts. Thankfully I’m on vacation this week, so I’ll have a chance to watch her debut.

  2. Hello Neal,
    I watched Ancient Goddess (P.G. Johnson stakes) race, and I read the Result Charts. In the comments, the # 4 & 5 horse “floated” – please clarify. I could not find this term in the Equibase Glossary.
    Thank you, I appreciate your writing; a wealth of knowledge!

    Sandy Lopez

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