In a duel of mega mares, J. Garvan Kelly and Nancy Yearsley’s homebred Nellie Delaney, the impressive winner of the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship earlier this year, defeated Lorena Velazquez Rodriguez’s reigning champion aged mare Check N Fetch by a head to win the $24,390 Merial California Distaff Challenge on Saturday at Los Alamitos.
Ridden by Cruz Mendez for trainer Juan Aleman, Nellie Delaney took the lead shortly after the start and never looked back on the way to recording her fifth consecutive victory. The Oklahoma-bred daughter of FDD Dynasty covered the 400 yards in :19.693 from the outside post six, while earning a berth to the Grade 1 Merial Distaff Challenge Championship at Prairie Meadows in Iowa on October 18. Nellie Delaney will remain at Los Alamitos the rest of the year according to J. Garvan Kelly, as the 4-year-old mare will be pointed to the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap on September 28 and the Champion of Champions on December 13. Nellie Delaney earned a berth to the Champion of Champions via her Winter Championship win on February 16.
“She’s a Los Alamitos mare,” Kelly said. “After she won the Winter Championship we made a plan that called for her to run a race in the fall to prepare her for Mildred Vessels and the Champion of Champions. We got what we wanted out of this race. The next two are big ones for Nellie Delaney.”
Nellie Delaney earned $12,195 for the win to take her lifetime earnings to $180,878. She’s a perfect three for three this season. She also won her last two outings of 2013, including a dead-heat first place finish in the Grade 1 Southern California Derby.
“We’re very pleased with her,” Kelly said. “Check N Fetch is an outstanding horse. She’s a five-time stakes winner so she deserved a great deal of respect. Our mare has now won five straight and has come along nicely. After she won the Winter Championship we were under some pressure to get some embryos out of her, but I believe that you either have a racehorse or a broodmare. Juan Aleman deserves a lot of credit for this mare because of the way he’s handled her, as does (jockey) Raul Valenzuela, who got her ready. Raul couldn’t be here tonight because of his riding commitments at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico. Cruz gave her a hand ride in this race. He never touched her.”
“She was great,” winning pilot Cruz Mendez said. “She broke quick and took the lead and did things very easy from there.”
Ridden by Ramon Sanchez for trainer Paul Jones, runner-up Check N Fetch was making her first start since finishing second in the Charger Bar Handicap on January 6. The 6-year-old Check Him Out mare had a great 2013 campaign, as she won six of 11 starts including the $100,000 Merial Distaff Championship, the $150,000 Mildred Vessels, and the $50,000 Matron Stakes. She was fifth in the $750,000 Champion of Champions. Check N Fetch earned $5,244 in this race to take her career earnings to $294,556. Dean Frey’s Shez Jess Toxic finished in third place. She’s hit the board in 19 of 21 career starts. Ss Calendar Girl, The Streakin Clean, and Forgotten Dynasty completed the field.