Stormy Embrace an Intriguing Filly and Mare Sprint Contender
Courtesy of Mike Curry of America's Best Racing
With the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” schedule underway for 2018, the time has come to begin sorting the contenders from the pretenders for this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
In this week’s Getting to Know feature, we focus on Matalona Thoroughbreds’ Stormy Embrace, winner of the Grade 2, $250,000 Princess Rooney Stakes on June 30 at Gulfstream Park to earn a guaranteed starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.
Last year’s Filly and Mare Sprint winner Bar of Gold has been retired as has fellow Eclipse Award finalist Paulassilverlining, and Filly and Mare Sprint runner-up Ami’s Mesa ran sixth in her season debut. If Unique Bella, the 2017 Eclipse Award winner as champion female sprinter, continues to target longer route races, the female sprint division should be wide open. On June 30, Stormy Embrace entered the picture with a dominant six-length romp in the Princess Rooney.
Contested at the same seven-eighths-of-a-mile distance as the Filly and Mare Sprint, the Princess Rooney in 2010 produced a Breeders’ Cup winner as third-place finisher Dubai Majesty followed with three wins and a second in her final four starts and wrapped up champion female sprinter honors with a 2 ¼-length win in the Filly and Mare Sprint.
The next year, Princess Rooney runner-up Musical Romance nailed down champion female sprinter honors with a 2011 Filly and Mare Sprint win and won the Princess Rooney in 2012 for good measure.
Could Stormy Embrace be the next elite sprinter to come out of the Princess Rooney? Her dominant performance Saturday indicates she warrants respect.
A homebred of Matalona Thoroughbreds, Stormy Embrace showed some flashes of potential in her first two seasons on the racetrack, finishing in the top three in three stakes races while winning three of 14 starts.
Stormy Embrace seemed to really settle in as a sprinter on dirt in the second half of 2017. She placed in five of six races from July to December and finished third in the Millions Distaff Stakes and second in the FTBOA City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes.
In 2018, she has taken the next step. In winning her season debut in February at Tampa Bay Downs, Stormy Embrace powered to a 9 ¼-length runaway that earned her a 103 Equibase Speed Figure (her first time reaching triple digits).
After a third-place finish in the Minaret Stakes, she stayed at Tampa and recorded a then-career-best 107 Equibase Speed Figure for a 4 ¾-length win at seven-eighths of a mile.
On May 19 at Gulfstream Park, Stormy Embrace secured her first stakes win with a half-length victory in the Musical Romance Stakes at seven eighths of a mile despite her rider, Wilmer Garcia, misjudging the finish line.
The Princess Rooney subsequently served as a true coming-out party for Stormy Embrace, who led at every point of call and simply overwhelmed the opposition in the stretch for her first graded stakes win.
After an opening half-mile in :45.25, Stormy Embrace won the race with a dazzling third quarter-mile in 23.72 seconds to extend her lead from a length to 6 ½. She coasted home her final eighth of a mile in 12.84 en route to a 110 Equibase Speed Figure, three ticks above her previous best.
Stormy Embrace completed the seven eighths of a mile in 1:21.81, but it’s worth noting that her time for three-quarters of a mile (1:08.97) was more than three-fifths of a second faster than elite male sprinter X Y Jet (1:09.61) ran to win the Grade 3 Smile Sprint Stakes one race later at Gulfstream.
Stormy Embrace gave trainer Kathleen O’Connell her first graded stakes win since Watch Me Go won the 2011 Tampa Bay Derby, and gave Garcia his first career graded stakes victory. The chestnut filly improved to three wins, two seconds, and one third in seven races at the seven-eighths-of-a-mile Filly and Mare Sprint distance.
It’s fair to demand to see a duplicate performance against graded stakes competition before moving Stormy Embrace near the top of the female sprinter division, but with four wins in five starts this season she is rapidly improving, and she’s racing in a wide-open division.
Stormy Embrace is from the final crop of 2007 Louisiana Derby winner Circular Quay, a Grade 1 winner as a 2-year-old. Circular Quay died in 2015.
Multiple graded stakes winner Reporting Star is his top career earner to date with Stormy Embrace second, as the son of 1995 Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch never really found consistent success as a sire.
Stormy Embrace’s dam (mother), Stormy Allure, by Stormy Atlantic, won two of six career starts and flashed the natural speed that is Stormy Embrace’s calling card in her two wins, both in sprints. Stormy Allure is a half-sister (same dame, different sire) to multiple stakes-winning sprinter Executive Allure, who placed in a graded stakes on both grass and synthetic surfaces.
Stormy Embrace’s grandam (maternal grandmother), Ready and Alluring, was a stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles on dirt.
The seven-furlong distance of the Princess Rooney and Filly and Mare Sprint seems ideal for Stormy Embrace, and with even a slight step forward she looks like a female sprinter capable of competing against the best of her division.
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