In the summer of 2008, I sat with Dale Romans at Saratoga as he watched Robby Albarado work an unraced two-year-old filly on the main track. Back at the barn, Albarado got off the horse and said to the trainer, “She could win first time out.” Her name was Sara Louise.
The jockey didn’t get it quite right, but after finishing fourth in her début at Saratoga, Sara Louise won at Belmont in her second start, and in early November, she won the Grade III Pocahontas by three and three-quarter lengths; that win earned her the 2009 moniker of “the last horse to beat Rachel Alexandra,” who had finished second. Now four, the daughter of Malibu Moon out of Kings Lynn has won or placed in five graded stakes races, out of six attempts.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Romans was at Belmont Park, preparing Quiet Temper for the Acorn and First Dude for the Belmont; he wasn’t there to see Sara Louise’s two-year-old half sister (Five Star Day) win her first start by three and a quarter lengths. He was impressed enough, though, to mention the victory, even as he anticipated his big Belmont Day starters.
Jumping immediately into stakes company, Just Louise went from that maiden victory to the Grade 3 Debutante yesterday, and this time, she made it exciting.
Sent off as the second choice behind heavy favorite Salty Strike, Just Louise took the lead as the field rounded the turn, and she looked like she might be home free as she came into the stretch. But Salty Strike, who’d been near the lead through the quick early pace, wasn’t quite ready to concede, and engaged Just Louise through the lane; those two knocked heads while Tristanme, who’d raced far back, closed, and at the wire, they were separated by less than a head.
At the barn yesterday morning, one of Romans’s assistants praised Just Louise’s talent, tractability, and temperament; unlike her older sister, he said, Just Louise is an easy-going filly “whose got a lot of gears.” He suggested that she doesn’t have to have it one way on the track, and yesterday’s race bore that out.
For a two-year-old making only her second start, Just Louise ran a gritty race; she got the lead, lost it, got looked in the eye, and came back, fighting to the wire. She impressed with her heart and determination.
Just Louise will follow in her older sister’s footsteps by heading to Saratoga this summer, where last August Sara Louise won the Grade III Victory Ride. So far, it appears, she will take the Romans barn on an exciting ride, much as her older sister did.
In all ways, perhaps, but one: following a second place finish to Rachel Alexandra in the 2008 Golden Rod, Sara Louise was sold to Godolphin, leaving Romans’s barn to go overseas. The last I heard, that call had not come, though if Just Louise keeps this up, surely, Romans’ phone will start ringing.
Video of the Debutante, and click on photos to enlarge.