News & Barn notes

Mia’s Crusade Holds Off 1-2 Riding Pretty For Fifth Career Stakes Win In Saturday’s Jersey Girl Handicap

July 06, 2024

Trainer Chuck Spina said he may never figure out why Mia’s Crusade threw in a rare clunker in her last start, but once a mid-day rain storm doused Monmouth Park on Saturday he knew his 5-year-old mare would be just fine again.

Able to sit a stalking trip behind longshot Sea Maiden through the opening five-eighths of the one-mile Jersey Girl Handicap for Jersey-bred fillies and mares, 3 and up, Mia’s Crusade took control coming out of the final turn and then had just enough left to hold off the furious late charge of 1-2 favorite Riding Pretty for a nose victory.

The winning time on a grass course listed as firm even after the rain was 1:35.82.

It marked the fifth stakes win in state-bred company for the daughter of Greenpointcrusader, who is owned by Prancing Horse Farm LLC. Just as impressive is that she has now won Jersey-bred stakes races sprinting on the grass, going a mile on the turf, sprinting on a sloppy track and sprinting on a fast track.

“I have never ridden a horse that wins on so many surfaces,” said jockey Jomar Torres, who has ridden Mia’s Crusade in her past 16 starts. “Whatever track you put her on she runs. I looked at Jairo Rendon (aboard runner-up Riding Pretty) after the finish and asked him who won it. He said he thought I did. But I wasn’t sure.”

Mia’s Crusade won her seasonal debut by taking the Spruce Fir Handicap at six furlongs on the dirt at Monmouth Park on May 18 before a head-scratching sixth-place finish in the Smart N Classy Handicap in her next start.

She was beaten 20¼ lengths that race – an obvious aberration for an ultra-consistent horse who now has eight wins, two seconds and two thirds from 19 career starts.

“She’s just so honest,” said Spina. “To be honest I can’t figure out why she ran as poorly as she did last race. I couldn’t find anything wrong with her. It’s just a mystery. Maybe we ran her back too close after the long layoff when she won the Spruce Fir Handicap. We came back in 15 days after that. So I don’t have an answer and it was frustrating because she is so consistent.

“This game will drive you nuts because I still don’t know why she got beat 20¼ lengths last time. We went over it with a fine tooth comb. We couldn’t find anything.”

Once Spina saw the rain he felt better about Mia’s Crusade bouncing back, since she owns two slop wins and another Jersey-bred stakes victory on a good turf course.

“I do think the rain we had helped her today, Said Spina. “She likes moisture when she runs, whether it’s grass or dirt.”

Torres echoed that sentiment.

“She’s amazing. I think the rain helped,” he said. “She likes a little moisture, whether it’s on the dirt or the grass. And she is getting better and better.”

Bramble Bay managed to grab third, 3¼-lengths behind Mia’s Crusade, whose only threat came from Riding Pretty in the eight-horse field (reduced by one when Bel Pensiero broke through the gate and was scratched).

Mia’s Crusade paid $15.40 to win.