She Feels Pretty Eye-Catching Hilltop Winner in Season Opener

She Feels Pretty Eye-Catching Hilltop Winner in Season Opener

G1 Winner at 2 Making First Start Since Breeders’ Cup in November

LAUREL, MD – Lael Stables’ She Feels Pretty, a Grade 1 winner in her second career start last fall, opened her sophomore season in style with a 5 ¾-length victory in the $100,000 Hilltop Friday at historic Pimlico Race Course.

The 52nd running of the Hilltop for 3-year-old fillies going one mile on the grass was the second of six stakes, three graded, worth $1 million in purses on a spectacular 14-race Black-Eyed Susan (G2) Day program headlined by the 100th edition of the 1 1/8-mile fixture for 3-year-old fillies.

It was the second straight win, both in a stakes, for trainer Cherie DeVaux, who one race earlier captured the listed $100,000 Allaire du Pont with Shotgun Hottie, and the fifth Hilltop score for Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez following Excited (2011), Coup (2012), Miss Temple City (2015) and Alda (2021).

Roanan Goddess, back on grass for the first time since breaking her maiden last September at Colonial Downs, took the early initiative from her rail post and was in front after a quarter-mile in 23.92 seconds, trailed by Just Better two wide and Turf Rocket in the three path as She Feels Pretty settled in fifth.

Velazquez bided his time behind horses until finding room leaving the far turn and quickly scooted past Just Better, who had taken over the lead, and opened up with daylight to win in 1:38.59 over a turf course rated good. Just Better was 3 ½ lengths in front of Waves of Mischief in second.

Royal Wintour, Turf Rocket, Roanan Goddess and Expatriate completed the order of finish. Society Ball, Modern Sound and Brown Suga Babe were scratched.

She Feels Pretty ($3.20) broke her maiden sprinting 5 ½ furlongs on the Ellis Park turf last July and followed up with a 4 ¼-length win in the one-mile Natalma (G1) at Woodbine. In her only other start at 2 she was third, beaten a half-length, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) at Santa Anita, also at one mile.

The Hilltop is a shortened version of Pimlico’s long-standing nickname, Old Hilltop, in recognition of a large infield hill once prominent for viewing races. The hill was leveled in 1938.

Hilltop Stakes Quotes

Winning trainer Cherie DeVaux (She Feels Pretty): “She had been training well and you hope they can come out fresh from (age) 2 to 3. There are a lot of unknowns coming out here (off layoff since Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf). I was really impressed with her. It was obviously an easier race than the Breeders’ Cup. You hope they come forward and now hope for an exciting year ahead. This race fit the calendar for her.

(On winning first two stakes) “It’s not a bad start at all. Just hope the horses continue to run well and run their races and come out of them well. We will target the series they have in New York and the big one would be the Queen Elizabeth (at Keeneland).

“I don’t expect to win any race; it’s not in my constitution. I just hope they are fit to run their race. I want them to run a race especially coming off a layoff that we can move forward from. She showed that was well within her wheelhouse and Johnny had her pretty wrapped up at the end.”

Winning Jockey John Velazquez (She Feels Pretty): "She kind of squeezed through inside. But she won easy, though. Pretty easy. She's very nice. (DeVaux told me) I don't know if I have her 100 percent. But she sure did show up.”