That owner Peter Brant and trainer Chad Brown captured the First Lady Stakes (G1T) for a second year in a row did not surprise the betting public, but the filly they did it with this year supplied a bit of a jolt.
In fact, the Brant-Brown team finished first and second in the Oct. 7 mile turf test for fillies and mares at Keeneland as 2-5 favorite In Italian carried her usual front-running speed into deep stretch before stablemate Gina Romantica surged past her late to win by a head.
The strong finish by Gina Romantica landed the 4-year-old daughter of multiple leading sire Into Mischief her first grade 1 win against older rivals, as she previously scored at Keeneland against her own age group in last year’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (G1T). Gina Romantica completed the mile on firm turf in 1:33.70.
The stretch rally by her stablemate denied favored In Italian, a 5-year-old daughter of Dubawi , her second straight win in the First Lady. In Italian followed that 2022 First Lady effort with a runner-up finish to Tuesday in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1T) at Keeneland.
In Italian raced comfortably on the lead under jockey Joel Rosario, maintaining a clear advantage through a half-mile in :46.80 and six furlongs in 1:10.12. She still enjoyed a 1 1/2-length advantage in the stretch, but her stablemate Gina Romatica was rallying furiously under Tyler Gaffalione.
Gina Romantica raced sixth through six furlongs while saving ground early. After the three-eighths pole, she was angled out five wide into the upper stretch, where she surged to get up under steady pressure. Gaffalione credited trainer Chad Brown with having Gina Romantica ready to run her best.
“First off, all the credit goes to Chad and his team. She fired big for us today,” Gaffalione said. “Thank you, Mr. Brant, for giving me this opportunity. She broke good. She traveled so great throughout. I didn’t have to take too much of a hold. She was very comfortable where she was. Coming into the stretch—once I found room toward the outside—she really exploded; finished her job really well.”
Sent off at 11-1, Gina Romantica paid $25.02 to win.
Jockey Joel Rosario, who guided In Italian to victory in last year’s First Lady, said the mare ran her race.
“She relaxed nice today. The other horse (Gina Romantica) really ran a big race,” Rosario said. “The fractions were good. She was really relaxed up front, beautiful.”
Jose Ortiz was pleased with the effort of Evvie Jets.
“I was third-best,” Ortiz said. “Both fillies in front of me were much better than me today. We ran a great race.”
Gina Romantica won her career debut in March 2022 and closed out last season with that victory in the Queen Elizabeth. Her score Saturday marked her first win of the season, but she’s moving in the right direction.
Gina Romantica made her 4-year-old debut June 17 in the Eatontown Stakes (G3T) at Monmouth Park, where she finished fourth in a race won by stablemate Consumer Spending . She then finished second to Fev Rover in the Beverly D. Stakes (G1T) at Colonial Downs.
Bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall, Carrie and Craig Brogden, Gina Romantica is out of the unplaced Unbridled’s Song mare Special Me , who boasts seven winners from eight starters. Gina Romantica is a half sister to grade 1 winner Gift Box (Twirling Candy ) and grade 2 winners Stonetastic (Mizzen Mast ) and Special Forces (Candy Ride).
BSW/Crow went to $1,025,000 to land Gina Romantica at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where Machmer Hall Sales consigned her.