By Sarah Mace
Marc Keller’s Quezon (Tiz Wonderful) added a fourth stakes win to her career tally, and first open black-type score, when she rallied to victory in the $100,000 Garland of Roses for fillies and mares three and up against the backdrop of a snowy Aqueduct on Saturday afternoon. Fellow New York-breds Picco Uno and Absatootly followed Quezon across the line next in order to complete an all-New York-bred trifecta.
All three of the New York-breds in the Garland or Roses were exiting the Iroquois Stakes at Belmont Park on Empire Showcase Day, October 21. That day, Newman Racing’s Absatootly was best, out-finishing Quezon from well off the pace following a heads-up rally at the rail. Picco Uno, owned by Kennesaw Mountain Racing LLC, chased the pace early and faded to fifth.
Partnered for the first time with Joe Rocco, Jr. to go six furlongs in the “Roses” as the 7-5 favorite, Quezon started alertly, but backed off for the first half mile, racing down on the rail three lengths off pacesetter Absatootly (2-1), who carved out opening splits in 23.35 and 47.26. Picco Uno (2-1) pursued a length back in second in the closely-bunched field
Still mired down on the inside through the turn, Quezon found room in upper stretch to maneuver into the three-path and found a seam in the final furlong to launch a strong rally in the clear.
In the final strides, the chestnut mare ran down new leader Picco Uno to win by three-quarters of a length. Absatootly had to settle for third another 2 1/2 lengths back and, completing the order of finish, were Kalabaka and Fusaichi Red. The final time for six panels in the snow over a track labeled “good” was 1:11.75. [VIDEO REPLAY]
Joe Rocco reported, “I thought that Kendrick’s horse [Picco Uno] was the lone speed and I thought he would clear and I could get out right away because the rail didn’t look too great today, but it didn’t work out that way at all. Bravo’s horse [Absatootly] ended up showing more speed than I thought.”
Continued Rocco, “At least the two horses to beat were in front of me so I followed them until we turned for home. I was able to find a seam and get out. She switched leads and she really came home strong today.”
Winning trainer Bobby Ribaudo also registered some surprise about the way the race unfolded. “We figured we’d be laying a close second and our concern was that the inside wasn’t as good as the outside today and we’d have to try to get around. When they were all together, I wasn’t happy about that. We were kind of stuck down in there but [Rocco] worked his way out. She switched leads today, which she doesn’t always do, so it worked out.”
Quezon has been a consistent runner throughout her career, finishing on the board in 10 of her last 11 starts dating back to July 2016, but the mare came into the Garland of Roses with a win drought, having last visited the winner’s circle in October 2016 when she won the Iroquois. In six prior starts this year, the 5-year-old had posted three seconds and a third
Said Ribaudo, “It took a couple of races to get her game face on, but the last couple of starts, you can’t fault her. She probably shouldn’t have gotten beat the last time (in the Iroquois) and the Gallant Bloom (September 24, third place) was a graded race against nice fillies.”
With Saturday’s victory, Quezon improved her overall record to six wins, six seconds and two thirds, with one stakes victory a year: Maid of the Mist in 2014, Bouwerie in 2015, Iroquois in 2016 and the Garland of Roses. Her bankroll sits at a robust $694,200.
Bred by Apache Farm LLC and foaled at Apache Farm North in Mt. Morris, Quezon is the only foal produced by Kalookan Dancer, a multiple stakes-winning California-bred daughter of Olympio. Quezon was a $90,000 purchase by Riverside Stable at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale in Saratoga.