(Soul of an Angel / All Photos by Coady Photography)

From the Horseshoe Indianapolis Media Team / Jennie Rees:

Trainer Gerald James and Jockey Ajhari Williams earned the biggest victory of their careers as the 4-year-old filly Soul of an Angel wore down the leaders in deep stretch for a length victory over long shot Raindrops on Roses in the $100,000 Mari Hulman George Memorial at Horseshoe Indianapolis.

 

Heartyconstitution, the favorite at 1-2 odds off a three-race win streak, was bottled up in traffic after breaking on the rail, got to the outside but couldn’t sustain a drive and wound up fifth.

 

James and Williams both are from the Virgin Islands, with the trainer based in Florida at Palm Meadows training facility and Williams currently riding at Mountaineer Park. Neither had won a stakes race before. The Mari Hulman George is technically not a stakes but was run as a handicap, with the horses eligible to compete on the anti-bleeder medication Lasix.

 

“He has known me since I was a kid,” Williams said of James. “Outside my dad and my brothers, he was the first person I feel like believed in me… I still don’t know how I feel about it. For me to win my first ($100,000 race) for Gerald, I can’t explain the feeling. I’ve had many trials and tribulations, but he always told me I’ve got the talent and kept me motivated, kept giving me the opportunity. Like right here, right now.”

 

James brought Soul of an Angel, co-owned by the trainer with Hall Performance LLC, to Churchill Downs this spring. The filly was seventh in the Grade 1 LaTroienne and sixth in the Shawnee (G3) before shipping to Thistledown for the Lady Jaqueline, in which she also was sixth. He scratched out of last week’s G2 Fleur de Lis back at Churchill to run in the Indiana race.

 

“We thought this would be a softer spot, and we were right,” James said. “She’s a good horse. She has always been knocking on the door and running against harder competition.”

 

Breaking from post 9 in the field of nine fillies and mares, Soul of an Angel broke awkwardly and was in eighth early on. Williams made his move on the far turn, sweeping six-wide in the stretch to reel in the leaders. She completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.81 and paid $21.80 to win, $11.60 to place and $8.80 to show. It was another neck back in third to Take a Stand and jockey Fernando Del La Cruz, who along with the Rodney Prescott-ridden Raindrops on Roses led in mid-stretch.

 

Soul of an Angel won for the third time in 26 starts, with four seconds and four thirds. She increased her bankroll to $189,625 with the $57,600 winner’s purse. The Kentucky-bred filly is a daughter of the well-bred Atreides, who now stands in Oklahoma for a $2,000 stud fee but whose only defeat in five starts was a sixth in the 2014 Indiana Derby.

 

James watched the race near the winner’s circle, doing his part to propel Soul of an Angel forward.

 

“I was doing so much jumping up and down my back’s hurting,” he said, adding with a laugh. “I think that made the difference.”

 

James said there used to be quite a bit of racing in the Virgin Islands, a U.S. territory before the tracks were decimated by hurricanes. He said he relocated to Florida in 2007. The Mari Hulman George was his 14th career victory and easily the biggest in his new base of operations.

 

If the race technically was not classified as a stakes, it sure felt like one to the winners.

 

“I knew she was going to get my first stakes win,” James said. “I just placed her in the right spot at the right time. She proved she could do it. It proved I have some talent; we have some talent from the Virgin Islands. (The racing there) kind of slowed down with two major hurricanes. But now the tracks are building back up and eventually it will pick back up.”

 

Not that he plans on returning. “I’m very excited and I can’t wait for the future,” he said. 

 

The 21st season of live Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing extends through Friday, Nov. 17. Live racing is held Tuesday through Thursday with Saturday racing added in during the summer months. First post Tuesday and Wednesday is 2:30 p.m. Thursday racing begins at 2:10 p.m. The Summer Saturday Racing Series includes four all-Quarter Horse dates July 22, Aug. 12, Sept. 2, and Oct. 7 beginning at 10:45 a.m. For more information on live racing at Horseshoe Indianapolis, visit www.caesars.com/horseshoe-indianapolis.