Despite inclement weather in the Hot Springs area on Friday afternoon, Wicked Halo (Gun Runner) returned to action off the break and won the inaugural running of the Matron S. over a wet track with Tyler Gaffalione in-town to ride for the weekend. The 4-year-old filly was making her first start of the year for trainer Steve Asmussen after she ran third in the GI Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Keeneland Nov. 5.
Prior to that, the classy sprinter strung together a number of stakes victories starting as a juvenile in the GII Adirondack S. at Saratoga Aug. 8 of that year. As a 3-year-old, Wicked Halo won four in-a-row starting at Churchill Downs June 12 in the Leslie's Lady Overnight S. and then in the Tepin S. July 2. She then stepped up to declare victory in the GII Prioress S. at Saratoga Sept. 2 and in the GII Lexus Raven Run S. Oct. 22.
After a trio of scratches, the even-money favorite in this comeback spot was content to settle in third, as Pretty Birdie (Bird Song) and I'm the Boss of Me (Midshipman) tore through the early fractions at :21.15 for the first quarter mile. Around the far turn as rival on the tote Matareya (Pioneerof the Nile) hugged the fence, the gray filly took the overland route and down the lane challenged the 3-2 shot to her outside. With a powerful late kick, she passed the Brad Cox trainee to win by 1 3/4 length.
“Talented group of mares and the exciting part is for her to come back running that fast,” said Steve Asmussen. “She finished off the year in spectacular fashion. I think she had four stakes wins and then was third in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. She got a little break off that. For her to come back and beat a filly the quality of Matayera in such a competitive fashion is very exciting.”
The winner's dam Just Wicked out of Wicked Deed (Harlan's Holiday), also successful in the Adirondack S. in Saratoga Springs, is a full-sister to GSW My Miss Lilly. Wicked Halo is bred on the same Gun Runner and Tapit cross as GISW Society and MGSP Red Route One, who will contest the GI Arkansas Derby on Saturday. Recent siblings include a 3-year-old full-brother named Wicked Again, a yearling full-sister and her dam just foaled another colt by Gun Runner.
MATRON S., $250,000, Oaklawn, 3-31, 4yo/up, f/m, 6f,
1–WICKED HALO, 117, f, 4, Gun Runner–Just Wicked (GSW,
$208,460), by Tapit. O/B-Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC (KY);
T-Steven M. Asmussen; J-Tyler Gaffalione. $162,500. Lifetime
Record: MGSW, 12-7-0-4, $1,032,700.
2–Matareya, 117, f, 4, Pioneerof the Nile–Innovative Idea, by
Bernardini. O/B-Godolphin (KY); T-Brad H. Cox. $50,000.
3–I'm the Boss of Me, 117, m, 5, Midshipman–Glory Park, by
Deputy Commander. ($47,000 Ylg '19 KEESEP). O-Danny
Brown, Charis Brenneman and Greg Compton; B-Edward A.
Seltzer (KY); T-Greg Compton. $25,000.
Margins: 3/4, 6 3/4, 12HF. Odds: 1.00, 1.50, 12.60.
Also Ran: Pretty Birdie. Scratched: Dealing Justice,
Samurai Charm, Teddy's Barino.
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