By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)
WINNIPEG — Labhay, an Irish-bred six-year-old mare owned by Mike Powers and trained by Jerry Gourneau, could not have run a better race.
With Richard Mangalee in the irons, Labhay caught Hidden Grace and Miss Imperial in deep stretch and blew the two favourites away to win the 35th running of the $25,000 Escape Clause Stakes on Wednesday night at Assiniboia Downs.
It was a shocker. In a stakes event billed as the second-match race of the season between the two best fillies on the grounds, four-year-olds Miss Imperial and Hidden Grace, Labhay went off at 40-1 and trailed much of the way until finding her legs and her heart at the top of the stretch. She proceeded to hunt down the favourites and scooted on by to win the $15,000 first prize.
Hidden Grace was awarded second in a photo after she passed Miss Imperial by the hairs on her nose just before the wire.
With her stunning victory, Labhay paid $85.60 to win, $23.10 to place and $5.20 to show. Hidden Grace, who went off as the 3-5 favourite, was second for the second time in two races this summer and paid $2.90 to place and $2.10 to show. Miss Imperial (4-5) was third and paid $2.10.
Labhay last raced on June 20 at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La., and finished fifth in a $10,000 claimer. In 15 career starts heading into Wednesday night’s Escape Clause Stakes over one mile, she had three wins and a second and just $35,567 in winnings. She had won only $2,190 in five starts this summer. In fact, in her last five races at Louisiana, Lone Star and Will Rogers, she had finished no better than fourth and in an allowance race on June 6 at Louisiana Downs, she was a distant 10th.
She hadn’t won since May 10, 2019 at Gulfstream Park West. In the meantime, her opponents were proven winners. Hidden Grace had won nine of 10 starts and finished second in her other start while Miss Imperial had won five straight races including three straight stakes races at the Downs this summer.
But on Wednesday night, Mangalee handled her brilliantly, keeping her outside, away from traffic and always stalking. With less than a furlong to go, she passed the leaders and cruised to the upset win of the year.
NOTEBOOK: Melisandre ($4.60), the full sister to Manitoba-bred star Hidden Grace, won the first race on Wednesday night — the first two-year-old race of the season at ASD. Bred by Cam Ziprick, Barry Arnason and Charles Fouillard, owned by Barry Arnason, trained by Mike Nault and ridden by Stanley Chadee Jr., Melisandre won a tidy $7,980 in the first race her career.