By Dick Jerardi
Princess Grace has won races at Colonial Downs, Monmouth Park, Churchill Downs, Del Mar and Kentucky Downs. The only track where she has won twice is Parx. The only race she has won twice is the Dr. James Penny Memorial.
The brilliant 5-year-old mare won the 2021 Penny after a nearly 8-month layoff. She won the 2022 version on July 12 in just her second race of the year. Princess Grace has won for five different jockeys, but Florent Geroux, who came up from Kenutcky for the race, is the only one to win on her more than once. In fact, he is now 3-for-3 with Princess Grace.
The Grade III Penny, run at 1 1/16 miles on the grass, was essentially over in the first 100 yards as Princess Grace cruised to an uncontested lead. When fractions of 24.51 and 49.08 were posted, it was just a question of the winning margin. It was 3 lengths at the wire for 8-5 Princess Grace, with 3-2 favorite Flirting Bridge’s late run good for a clear second, but never a threat to the winner. Main Line Stable’s Love in the Air, owned by Main Line Stable and trained by John Servis, chased Princess Grace the whole trip and held on nicely for third.
Did the jockey think he was going to get such an easy lead?
“See how she breaks and go from there,’’ Geroux said. “I tried to get out as fast as I could. If somebody else wanted the lead, I was fine letting them go. I thought I had the best horse in the race, good tactical speed and I took it from there.’’
Princess Grace was just one-half length from winning her first seven starts. Then, she went west and ran two solid thirds against serious grass horses last November. The plan had been for her to run in January’s Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf, but a jaw abscess derailed that plan. So trainer Michael Stidham finally got her back to the races in the June 18 Eatontown at Monmouth Park. That turned out to be a nightmare trip for her after a nightmare trip for Geroux who never made it to the track for the ride.
“He was scheduled to ride four or five horses at Monmouth, most of the stakes and a couple of the supporting races,’’ Geroux’s agent Doug Bredar said.
Geroux was supposed to fly from Louisville to Newark the morning of the races. That flight got delayed for hours and Bredar is not sure if it ever took off. So Geroux drove to Cincinnati to get a flight to Philadelphia. That flight got canceled. He drove back to Louisville and caught a flight to Philadelphia. It actually got to Philly, but it took 45 minutes for the gate crew to open the door. He had an Uber waiting to take him to Monmouth, but, by then, it was too late so he had the Uber take him to Newark Airport where he caught a flight home.
“He tried everything known to mankind,’’ Bredar said.
Mike Smith ended up riding Princess Grace at Monmouth and whatever could go wrong did go wrong. She was wide, stuck behind a very slow pace, never got comfortable and finished last of 7.
Well, Princess Grace got very comfortable at Parx and ran to her normal top class form. Interestingly, Princess Grace’s dam Masquerade broke her maiden at Parx on June 9, 2012. She was trained at that point of her career by Steve Klesaris and was ridden by Parx Hall of Famer Stewart Elliott. She ran nine times at Parx before heading out of town.
Princess Grace earned $112,800 of the $200,000 Penny purse for owners John and Susan Moore. That made her racing’s newest millionaire with earnings of $1,086,160. In 11 lifetime starts, she has 7 wins, a second, two thirds and five graded stakes wins.