By Dick Jerardi
When a filly has not run in four months, you can never be certain that she will reproduce her best form. The bettors at Gulfstream Park and around the country, however, were not concerned on March 2 when that filly was Jaywalk, the 2018 Champion Two-Year-Old Filly. She was the 1-5 favorite in the Grade II Davona Dale Stakes. She had won three open stakes, including the Grade I Frizette and Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Her six rivals had won none.
In a result as inexplicable as those posted by Maximus Mischief and Imperial Hint in Florida this winter, the champ stalked 13-1 pacesetter Cookie Dough through moderate fractions in the one-turn, one-mile race and came up completely empty in the stretch, eventually finishing fourth behind 51-1 winner Jeltrin, Cookie Dough and Champagne Anyone. They are all decent fillies, but none with anything close to the accomplishments of Jaywalk.
“I’m not real sure,” Jaywalk’s trainer John Servis said the day after the race when asked what happened. “The only thing I can think of, maybe she just wants to be on the lead.”
Jaywalk’s two Grade I wins were wire-to-wire blowouts. She broke her maiden at Parx last July while on the lead the whole way. The only race she won without the lead was the White Clay Creek Stakes at Delaware Park last August when she was fourth early and closed late to win going away. That race was at 5 1/2 furlongs.
“I remember when she won at Delaware and she came from off the pace to win, Josh (Navarro) rode her and he said ‘John, I’m riding her and I got nothing. I turned for home, I wheeled her out in the middle of the race track, once I got her away from those horses, she just exploded,’” Servis said.
That makes some sense. So does this.
“I think she came up a little short too,” Servis said. “But I didn’t think she’d be that short. She’s had plenty of miles in her. She should have run better than that, but she’s fine this morning, acting good, ate up. I’m just going to throw it out.”
There were no specific instructions for jockey Joel Rosario to make the lead so when Cookie Dough got the front, the jockey just let her go and put Jaywalk in a perfect position just behind and outside of the leader.
“The one thing I probably did wrong was I said to Joel, I haven’t tightened the screws on her so if she gets tired on you, don’t beat her up,” Servis said. “He kind of took that to heart which is fine. It’s not the end of the world.”
But it was a setback. The Kentucky Oaks goal remains the same.
“If he rides her away from there, she’s in front,” Servis said of the Davona Dale.
For her next race, either the Gulfstream Park Oaks or Ashland at Keeneland, they will be going farther, so Servis figures she will be in front then.
“The fractions she ran in the Frizette and then the Breeders’ Cup, I can’t imagine too many horses trying to run with her,” Servis said.
Maximus Mischief, Imperial Hint and Jaywalk all trained on the forgiving, safe surface at Parx last summer and fall. When they went to New York tracks to run, they all ran great. Jaywalk was great when she won at Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup. Imperial Hint went early to Churchill Downs and did not run his best in the Breeders’ Cup, but there could have been other issues with him. When asked if not training at Parx this winter could have negatively impacted the three horses, Servis said, “I wouldn’t think so but…”
Like so much in horse racing, there is no way to know for sure why Jaywalk ran like she did, only that it’s obvious she is way better than what she showed in her first race as a three-year-old.