Trainer Bret Calhoun very much had misgivings when a storm blew in as his 3-year-old filly New Boss was in the paddock for Sunday’s $60,000 Pea Patch Overnight Stakes at the RUNHAPPY Meet at Ellis Park. The turf, which started the day listed as “good” after rain showers in recent days, figured to get that much soggier by the time the field went to the post.
“I ran her once on soft turf at Keeneland and it didn’t work out too good,” said Calhoun, who trains New Boss for Barry and Carol Conrad. “I was thinking soft turf is only going to get worse, that the only shot we had was a sealed racetrack that might be firm.”
That’s what happened. It kept raining. The 5 1/2-furlong stakes came off the turf. And the main track, which had been fast one race earlier, was sloppy but packed down as track superintendent Javier Barajas’ crew “sealed” the surface during the weather delay.
And New Boss exploded to a six-length victory over Southern Grayce, tooling the 5 1/2 furlongs in the slop in 1:03.11 under Adam Beschizza. She paid $5.80 to win as the co-favorite with Southern Grayce, who had only raced on dirt.
“She’s done the business on the dirt before,” Beschizza said. “It’s probably not her preferred surface these days, but we also had our concern about what already was a soft turf course early on in the day. If they were going to leave it on, it would have been testing ground.”
New Boss started her career on dirt, the chestnut daughter of Street Boss winning her debut last August at Lone Star Park. In two subsequent races at Indiana Grand, she finished a well-beaten fifth and a decisively-beaten second (in the slop) before Calhoun introduced New Boss to the grass over the winter in New Orleans.
“The two races at Indiana, that track can be a little different,” Calhoun said. “But she didn’t like it at all. She absolutely labored over it. That’s when we went to the turf and she got good. We weren’t looking to go back to the dirt, but under these circumstances, a firmer sealed track, I thought it was OK.”
In six turf starts heading into the Pea Patch, the filly had two wins (including the Fair Grounds’ Allen Black Cat LaCombe Memorial Stakes), two seconds (including by neck to Pea Patch program favorite Lady Edith in Churchill Downs’ Mamzelle Stakes) and a third (by a half-length in Churchill’s mile Tepin). Her only poor turf start came in Keeneland’s TVG Limestone Turf Sprint over a course rated “good.”
“Pretty simple,” Beschizza said. “She put me in a nice position. She’s got that nice change of gear. She quickens up away. Today, I mean, it was probably a paid workout really for her. It doesn’t usually happen that way.
“… She’s pretty unique. She can run a mile, 5 1/2 and she can turn it off and turn it on. She turned it on there today. She’s got a nice explosive gear and she was just waiting for me cue. I just love her to pieces. Bret has done a super job with her.”
Southern Grayce, with Florent Geroux aboard, finished three lengths in front of Beachside Bunny, with Prodigy Doll and and Lady Edith rounding out the field of 3-year-old fillies. Reinagol, Risky Reward and Lemos Cunha were scratched when the stakes came off the turf, with Bullseye Beauty an early scratch.
New Boss now is 4-3-1 in 10 starts, earning $183,454. Calhoun said a grass stakes such as Kentucky Downs’ $500,000 Music City at 6 1/2 furlongs on Sept. 12 will be an objective.
“In those races at Churchill Downs, she did everything but win,” Beschizza said of her neck and half-length defeats. “She’s gone head-and-head, nail-to-nail down to the wire. Even in defeat, she has still turned in some phenomenal performances.”
Photos below: New Boss carries Adam Beschizza to victory in Ellis Park’s Pea Patch Overnight Stakes. Please credit Coady Photography