Wonder Wheel (Into Mischief) wins the Darley Alcibiades (G1) at Keeneland on 10.07.22. Tyler Gaffalione up, Mark Casse Trainer. DJ Stables owner.
Three years ago, Mark Casse saddled Wonder Gadot, one of the greatest fillies to ever grace his shedrow, for the last time. On Friday, the trainer got some more “wonder” in his life when Wonder Wheel got to the lead early and survived a deep stretch battle to win the Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland. The victory secured her a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in November at the same track.
The 2-year-old daughter of Into Mischief broke from the inside post, and quickly established herself as the leader as the field headed into the first turn. Wonder Wheel led the field through the turn and into the backstretch, followed on the outside by Raging Sea and Xigera, and directly behind by Essaouira, setting an opening quarter in :23.49.
Wonder Wheel was under constant pressure from Xigera through the back straightaway, and through an opening half in :47.16. Xigera was followed closely by a second flight including Kaling, Raging Sea, and Essaouira.
Wonder Wheel began to break loose from the rest of the field as the final turn approached, and she held a one-length advantage over Xigera after covering six furlongs in 1:11.60. The leader extended that advantage slightly heading through the final turn, and she maintained a one-length cushion after completing a mile in 1:38.22.
The filly appeared clear after passing the last pole before the wire, but Chop Shop was staging a three-wide rally, and Raging Sea was coming with her between the two horses. Jockey Joel Rosario had dead aim on the leader aboard Chop Shop, and they drew into contention with Wonder Wheel in the final jump before Keeneland’s short-stretch wire, but Wonder Wheel held on to prevail by a nose.
Chop Chop finished a neck ahead of Raging Sea, who was another three-quarters of a length ahead of Xigera. However, Raging Sea and Xigera swapped finish positions after further review found that Raging Sea had cut off Xigera’s progress in the deep stretch, and forced jockey Joe Talamo to take up his mount.
Wonder Wheel competed the 1 1/16-mile Alcibiades in 1:35.17 over a fast main track. She paid $10.20 to win as a tepid post time favorite.
Mark Casse trains Wonder Wheel for owner Leonard Green’s D. J. Stable. She was bred in Kentucky by Three Chimneys Farm and Clearsky Farms, out of the Tiz Wonderful mare Wonder Gal. Despite the similar name, Wonder Wheel is no direct relation to Casse’s Canadian Horse of the Year Wonder Gadot.
Green purchased Winder Wheel for $275,000 at last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
It was the fourth Alcibiades victory for Casse, who also saddled Spring in the Air in 2012, My Conquestadory in 2013, and Heavenly Love in 2017.
Friday’s Alcibiades victory improved Wonder Wheel’s career record to three wins from four starts for earnings of $510,725. In addition to the automatic Breeders’ Cup berth, the win also earned Wonder Wheel 10 qualifying points toward the 2023 Kentucky Oaks.
She broke her maiden on debut in June at Churchill Downs, then she won the Debutante Stakes a month later at the same track by 6 3/4 lengths. The filly suffered her lone defeat in her start prior to the Alcibiades, finishing second in the G1 Spinaway Stakes.
Quotes from the Keeneland Notes Team:
Mark Casse (winning trainer of Wonder Wheel)
“She had a great trip today; she had a little bit of a troubled trip (in the Spinaway-G1 at Saratoga in September). And in all honesty, the Spinaway is a big race – it’s a Grade 1, but it wasn’t my main goal. Today was it, and hopefully this will lead us into another big race coming up. She ran well, had a great trip. Some others maybe struggled and didn’t, but I do think she probably lost focus a little. She would surprise me if she couldn’t get a really good mile and a sixteenth. So maybe this race moves her up.”
On stepping up to the $2 million NetJets Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Nov. 4 at Keeneland
“Just getting this race over this track and getting the two turns, that in itself is going to move her up. It’s not rocket science. We’ll just keep her happy and hope for the best.”
Tyler Gaffalione (winning rider)
“I want to thank (Mr. and Mrs. Leonard) Green (of owner D. J. Stables) and Mark Casse for giving me this opportunity. They’ve been so instrumental in my career and getting me to this point. I’m so thankful for them. This filly, she came out here and did everything right today. We always thought she had a lot of class and she really showed it today. She put in a really big performance. Visually, (the win) doesn’t look as easy as it should, but she kind of just got lost coming into the stretch and there were a lot of people in the stands today, so she had every excuse.”
Joel Rosario (rider of runner-up Chop Chop)
“She came running and it looked like for a second we got it. That was a good performance for her.”