HOT SPRINGS -- The rapidly developing Comparative is now a graded stakes winner after holding off Ice Orchid by a half-length in the $250,000 Grade III Bayakoa Stakes for older fillies and mares Friday afternoon at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort.
The 1 1/16-mile Bayakoa marked the first career Oaklawn victory for New York-based jockey Manny Franco and the fourth Bayakoa win for trainer Brad Cox, who tied the record for the race. Cox has won the Bayakoa, a major local prep for the $1.25 million Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap on April 13, three of the past four years.
A homebred for famed Godolphin, Comparative has won five of her last six starts. In her previous race, Comparative notched her first career stakes victory in the nine-furlong $150,000 Ladies on Jan. 6 at Aqueduct in New York.
"I'm just happy to get this win for Cox and Godolphin," Franco said. "She's a nice filly. She's been running well for me back home in New York, so I just had to follow her. Just happy to get the win. She always tries hard. She did it last time. Another horse engaged her and she just kept fighting. That's what she did today. She felt the pressure and she was hard to get by. She didn't give up."
Comparative's task Friday was made easier after speedy 4-5 favorite Hot and Sultry stumbled badly at the start and was never a factor. With Hot and Sultry missing from the pace equation, Comparative and Shotgun Hottie, the 5-1 second choice, battled for the lead through fractions of :48.12 for a half-mile and three-quarters in 1:12.82. Shotgun Hottie weakened in the stretch and Comparative turned back Ice Orchid on the outside in the final furlong.
Ice Orchid finished 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Misty Veil, who was followed, in order, by Butterbean, Hot and Sultry, Shotgun Hottie, Just Katherine, The Alys Look and Skratch Kat.
"Speed seemed really, really good." Cox said. "A few races I've watched since I've been in town, horses on the front end weren't backing up. They were going fast and continuing on. Thought we were sitting a great trip the first turn up the backside.
"Brought this filly back trying to make her a stakes winner. She accomplished that the first part of January. To win a graded stakes is huge with her and her pedigree."
Comparative's winning time over a fast track was 1:44.81. Comparative won for the fifth time in 11 lifetime starts to raise her career earnings to $410,995. A 4-year-old daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, Comparative is a full sister to Shared Sense, a multiple graded stakes winner also campaigned by Cox and Godolphin.
The 1 1/16-mile Bayakoa was originally scheduled to be run Saturday before being moved up one day to accommodate a revised stakes schedule after racing and training was halted last month because of a winter storm.