Jay Em Ess Stable's Include Me Out got back to her winning ways on Saturday with a neck victory in the Grade 1, $300,000Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar.
The Ron Ellis-trained four-year-old suffered her first loss of the year when second last out in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap after leading in the stretch of that nine-furlong contest, but held both Star Billing and a flying Amani to finish the 1 1/16-mile Hirsch in 1:41.96 over Del Mar's Polytrack.
The final time was just :48 off the Polytrack and stakes record set by Zenyatta on August 2, 2008.
"I thought the race went perfect," Ellis said. "Then she drew out by a couple lengths and you know she pulls herself up when she gets on the lead. I guess (jockey) Joe (Talamo) likes to work hard trying to carry her home.
"I think she tolerates the synthetic tracks, but she's a much better filly on dirt. She doesn't seem to want to pull herself up as much. She just kind of does what she has to, and then when she gets to that lead, she thinks it's over with. Anyway, Joe gave her a good ride, got a very good trip and really worked hard carrying her home."
Include Me Out settled into the second tier of runners as Great Hot and Switch dueled through opening splits of :23 and :46 3/5. Switch won that battle, pulling away slightly on the backstretch as Great Hot and Kayce Ace ran in tandem and Include Me Out maintained her spot just in behind with Talamo aboard.
Switch was still in front rounding the turn but suddenly found company in the form of Include Me Out, who had slipped through on the inside before angling out in the lane to easily pass her tiring rival. The dark bay daughter of Include kept motoring despite Star Billing nipping at her heels, and returned $5.20, $3.20 and $2.60 as the 8-5 favorite in the eight-distaffer field.
"Oh, she's nice," Talamo enthused. "Yeah, she started to do it again today (pull herself up after she made the lead). But just a bit. When that other mare (Star Billing) came to her, she fought on. I almost had too good a trip today. I didn't want to go to the front that soon, but every hole opened up for her. I had no choice but to go. I love the opportunity to ride a horse like this. (Trainer) Ron (Ellis) and his crew have done a wonderful job with her."
Star Billing was 1 1/2 lengths in front of Amani on the wire as that one came sailing from last to edge Switch by three parts of a length. Quantity followed in fifth, while Zafeen's Pearl, Kayce Ace and Great Hot completed the order under the wire.
"She ran great. I thought I was going to get there. But the winner was the best horse today. She's good," said Rafael Bejarano, who guided Star Billing around the track.
"This was probably a little short for her," jockey Garrett Gomez said of Amani. "Give me another 50 yards and you might have seen a different finish. She's going to be fun.
"Been a while for her (last start eight months ago in Chile) and, that considered, she ran good today. She was coming."
"She's such a good filly," jockey Martin Garcia praised Switch. "And she wanted to go today. I tried to take her off those other two, but she was just going along there easy. I didn't want to fight her anymore, so we went for it."
Include Me Out broke her maiden last August at Del Mar and notched her second career win in an entry-level allowance/optional claimer in early November while running on Santa Anita's dirt track. She finished fifth when making her stakes bow in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes at seven furlongs on New Year's Eve, but has been nearly unstoppable since trying two turns in the Grade 2 La Canada on January 22, winning that 1 1/16-mile event by 4 1/4 lengths.
The dark bay miss followed up with a 3 3/4-length triumph in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita at 1 1/8 miles on March 17 and posted a three-quarter score in the Grade 2, 1 1/16-mile Marjorie L. Everett Handicap to cap off her three-graded race win skein.
In her most recent outing, Include Me Out had three lengths to spare in the Vanity stretch but was run down late by Love Theway Youare, who came back to be fifth against the boys in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap on July 7. Include Me Out's return to the winner's circle in this spot improved her line to 6-3-0 from 11 career races and she's now banked $683,600 in lifetime earnings.
With the Hirsch a "Win and You're In" race for Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Santa Anita in November, Include Me Out's prior experience at that track could come in handy this fall.
"I've been thinking about that since she won at Santa Anita (in January and March)," Ellis admitted. "We're really excited she's in good form right how and she'll have a couple months before she has to run again at Santa Anita. We're very excited about that."
Bred in Kentucky by Brereton C. Jones, Include Me Out sold for $150,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling. She is out of the unraced Mazel Trick mare Don't Trick Her and a half-sister to fellow Grade 1 heroine Check the Label as well as stakes vixen On the Menu. This is the same female line as Grade 1 divas Sweet Talker and Likeable Style, and multiple Grade 3 scorer Silver Medallion.
"And down the stretch they come!"...