A filly like Rachel Alexandra comes around once in a blue moon. It is not reasonable to think that another 3-year-old filly will surface any time soon and do the things she did. But we can still hope, can't we?
That is what is so great about this time of year--we get to see young 3-year-olds transform into stars right in front of our eyes as we march towards the Kentucky Derby and Oaks.
Over the past week, a couple different people brought to my attention a filly who has the look of a future star. Her name is Christine Daae (pronounced die-a and named for a character in the famous play Phantom of the Opera). She is very well bred, by Giant's Causeway--out of the Dehere mare Descapate. She is the first winner from 12-year-old Descapate, who was a two-turn stakes winner at Fair Grounds during her short career. The mare has been bred to some pretty good stallions so far--A.P. Indy, Storm Cat, Bluegrass Cat, Dixie Union, and Bernardini in 2010.
Christine Daae made what can only be described as a sensational maiden start on Jan. 15 at Gulfstream Park. Here is a video of the race so you can see for yourself.
As you can see, Christine Daae rated just off the pace of a very quick half-mile and ran an easy six furlongs in an eye-popping 1:09-flat. She was not asked for very much in the final furlong and still recorded a final time of 1:21.67 which is less than four-fifths of a second off the seven-furlong track record. She earned a 92 Beyer for the spectacular effort. It was the second start of her career, as she finished fourth on Hollywood Park's synthetic surface last summer. Cleary, she is a different horse as a 3-year-old.
I was so impressed by Christine Daae's maiden win that I decided to call her trainer, Patrick Biancone, to find out all I could about her. Biancone said the filly, who was bred by WinStar and was a $100,000 yearling, was purchased privately as a 2-year-old for $400,000 by Richard Giacopelli's Kona Stables and Michael Imperio. I also spoke to Giacopelli, who owns a construction business and has been in the racing business for two decades.
Giacopelli said Biancone picked her out. "I have an eye for concrete. Patrick has the eye for horses," he said."
"I watched her work in January and I was very impressed with how fast she was," Biancone said. "We've liked her for a long time. She wasn't quite ready physically (in her first race). She has really matured since then; she's getting really strong.
Biancone said the maiden win confirmed how good they thought she was.
"We were confident; we didn't expect quite that kind of effort, but we felt she would run well. She broke well, she rated, and was very professional."
Biancone said they will skip the allowance conditions and put Christine Daae right into stakes company. They have picked the one-mile Davona Dale (gr. II) as her next spot on Feb. 27 at Gulfstream.
Biancone confirmed that they are already thinking Kentucky Oaks with the filly. When I asked him the last time he had a 3-year-old filly as talented as Christine Daae in his barn he said, "I don't think I've ever had one."
When I asked him if she is better than any of the 3-year-old colts in his barn he said, "I would say so. And I have some pretty good ones."
When I asked him if she won the Davona Dale and maybe a race like the Bonnie Miss (gr. II) in March, if they would consider running her against colts he said, "I think that is a premature question. At this stage, we will take it step by step. We'll talk after every race."
I admit, I may have jumped the gun with that last question, but what the heck, I had to try. I also tried with Giacopelli, who was understandably cautious but didn't rule out anything.
"When I saw her win like that I said, ‘I think we have a stakes horses on our hands," said Giacopelli, who lives in New Jersey. "I guess Patrick is already thinking Oaks. (As far as the Derby), anything is possible. Maybe we're having a run of great fillies right now, who knows? But in this business, anything can happen. I just hope she can stay healthy and we'll go from there."
If nothing else, I look forward to watching this filly at Gulfstream this winter and spring. It was only one maiden win around one turn, but she has the look of something special. I know I will be putting a couple bucks on her in the Vegas sportsbooks--maybe for both the Oaks and the Derby. Stay tuned.