Lovely Cuvee surged to first-place in the ARC Distaff Challenge at Evergreen Park on Sunday afternoon (July 26).

The three-year-old mare ran 400 yards in a time of 20.622, winning by half a length over First Prize Cruise. Local four-year-old mare Getit Hot, owned by Charles Stojan, finished third. The track record is 19.670 set by Snowboundbeast in 2013.

According to Lovely Cuvee’s trainer, Allen Goodsell, the race was clean from his perspective - a strong measuring stick for the Leduc-based horse whose last race was May 15 at Remington Park in Oklahoma City, Okla.

“In quarter-horse racing you like to see everybody get out of the gate and (the race) is clean,” Goodsell said. “If you win, you win and if you lose, you lose. Nobody ran over each other (as) that happens in (this kind of race).”

Lovely Cuvee picked up $17,056 for first place out of the $34,112 purse.

“She was a little sluggish getting out of the gate, but fortunately we had a lane to run at,” Goodsell said of the trip, noting luck had a role in the outcome, the trainer often referring to the quality of the six-horse field. “When you win, you enjoy them because the highs are high, but the lows will come fast and quick.
"You’re always better off having a race horse with luck than you are talent. I’ve found that to be quite accurate over the years. (Jockey) J.B. Botello did a good job and all I had to do was throw a saddle on her.”

With the win, Lovely Cuvee automatically qualifies, as a regional winner, for the Bank of America American Quarter Horse Association Distaff Challenge, set for October 24 at The Downs in Albuquerque, N.M.

“The mare will go down there and run,” Goodsell said. “She belongs.”

Getit Hot finished third at the AQHA Adequan Derby Challenge Championship Stakes last October in Albuquerque – one of four Evergreen Park regional Bank of America champions to make the trek south.

Goodsell didn’t have a particular strategy on how he wanted Botello to run, but he wanted to keep the atmosphere around an important race as light as possible, believing stress passes from jockey directly to the horse.

“One of the last thing I tell my riders is to be relaxed in the gate, (as) the horse feeds off your tension,” Goodsell said. “I like to joke around and keep everyone’s mood light. (I) don’t need anybody stressing out.”

Lovely Cuvee came out of the three hole and was second by the first marker, half a length behind First Prize Cruise. Lovely Cuvee was then in a three-way tie with First Prize Cruise and Getit Hot at the second marker before pulling away in the deep stretch.

“With this particular mare, 400 yards is a little short,” Goodsell said. “She wants 440 yards and she’s bred to go 440 yards. With a filly like that, I like to let the rider know, ‘Hey, even if you’re behind a little bit, keep riding because she starts to shift gears the further she goes.’ (Botello) said every 50 yards she got faster and faster.”

The race was Botello’s first opportunity to run the horse in competition. The win paid $10.40 at the window.

“He was a little shocked as he gave her a run in the morning and (the effort) wasn’t (there).”

Lovely Cuvee came into the race with the fourth longest odds on the tote board at 4.20. Getit Hot was the odds-on favourite.

According to Goodsell, the mare will be back to race at Evergreen Park in late August. Perhaps the odds will be different.

“This filly qualified for graded stakes races in Oklahoma and Oklahoma would be 1 or 1A in quarter horse racing in North America, between that and California,” Goodsell said. “This is a nice filly and I don’t want to sell her short, but I believe in luck and a good horse. There are a lot of good horses, but that’s why you need the luck. That particular race you could probably run it 10 times and it would come out different. She’s got talent, she’s three-years old and whenever you jump in with those older mares, it’s tough on the (three-year-old), it really is.”.

he win paid $10.40 at the pari-mutuel window.