Joel Rosario is aboard as Maple Leaf Mel draws off by 7 3/4 lengths in the East View
August Dawn Farm’s undefeated Maple Leaf Mel returned victoriously from a seven-month layoff with a 7 3/4-length romp in Friday’s $100,000 East View for New York-bred sophomore fillies sprinting six furlongs at Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park, N.Y.
Trained by Jeremiah Englehart, Maple Leaf Mel is now 3-for-3 and notched the second stakes win of her career, entering from a victory in the state-bred Seeking the Ante over a sloppy and sealed main track on August 26 at Saratoga Race Course. The daughter of Cross Traffic was an impressive five-length winner on debut going the East View distance on August 10 at the Spa.
Ridden to victory by regular pilot Joel Rosario in the East View, Maple Leaf Mel broke sharply from post 4 and quickly took command of the seven-horse field exiting the chute. Maple Leaf Mel raced one length clear of the Jose Lezcano-piloted Les Bon Temps with longshot Security Code tracking in third along the rail under Manny Franco through an opening quarter-mile in 23.15 seconds over the fast main track.
Maple Leaf Mel maintained her lead approaching the turn as Lezcano urged Les Bon Temps for more and Banterra swung four-wide wide from mid-field to set her sights on the pacesetter, who marked a half-mile in 47.41. A confident Rosario only needed to give a shake of the reins at the top of the stretch for Maple Leaf Mel to kick clear from her rivals, drawing away at the eighth pole from an all-out Security Code to coast home in-hand in a final time of 1:12.75.
Security Code held place honors by two lengths over Les Bon Temps with Little Linzee closing from fifth to complete the superfecta. Banterra, Queens Masterpiece and Lady Mine, who bobbled at the start, completed the order of finish.
Englehart said he was pleased Rosario made the trip up from Florida to retain the mount aboard Maple Leaf Mel.
“That was super. Joel has worked her the last couple of times down in Florida and I was happy that he wanted to come up and ride her – that gave me a lot of confidence,” said Englehart. “It seems like she’s made the transition from 2-to-3 and hopefully she can continue to get better.”
Maple Leaf Mel has now won all three of her career starts in front-running fashion, but Englehart said the grey filly does not necessarily need the lead.
“I left it up to Joel. I don’t think it matters with her,” said Englehart. “I’ve worked her plenty of times as a 2-year-old behind horses and let her tip out and make a run. She’s just a racehorse. If you put her there, she’s going to try and repel everyone that comes to her. She likes to run. It’s as simple as that. She likes to do what she’s doing.”
Rosario, who returned to the Big A for the first time since December, said Maple Leaf Mel has grown mentally and physically as a sophomore.
“She was nice and comfortable and she was always there for me,” said Rosario. “She was just waiting for somebody to challenge her. It looked pretty easy for her today. She’s very talented. She had a lot of speed and it was a great race for her coming back off the layoff. She seems like she’s a little more mature and focused. It looks like she’s grown up the way she’s supposed to.
“Down the backstretch, it seemed like she wasn’t worried about anything,” Rosario continued. “She was always there for me and she was just waiting for someone to challenge her. After that, she was ready to go.”
Englehart added that August Dawn Farm owner Bill Parcells, the two-time Super Bowl winning Hall of Fame NFL coach, has expressed his desire to score an elusive Grade 1 win with Maple Leaf Mel and could try the filly in open company going forward. A path towards Grade 1 glory could include a start in the $125,000 Bouwerie sprinting seven furlongs against state-breds on May 29 at Belmont Park.
“Coach wants to win a Grade 1 and my goal is to win a Grade 1 with her for him,” said Englehart. “We’ve talked about a couple different spots. The Bouwerie is an option, but it’s a little further away than we wanted coming off this race. We’ll see how she comes out of it and I’ll have a nice, long talk with Coach on the way back up to Saratoga today and see what he wants to do.”
Bred by Joe Fafone, Maple Leaf Mel banked $55,000 in victory and boosted her total purse earnings to $213,400. Out of the twice-winning City Place mare City Gift, she was a $150,000 purchase at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale. She returned $2.60 on a $2 win wager as the 1-5 post-time favorite.
Manny Franco, aboard Security Code, said the Phil Serpe trainee ran admirably to earn the third stakes placing of her career.
“She ran a good race to get second. My filly ran well, we were just second best,” said Franco. “I was right where I wanted to be on the backstretch, right behind the favorite and that’s what I did.”
Live racing resumes Saturday at the Big A for New York Claiming Championship Day, featuring six starter events on the 10-race program. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.
America’s Day at the Races will present live coverage and analysis of the Aqueduct winter meet on the networks of FOX Sports. For the broadcast schedule and channel finder, visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/tv-schedule.
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