HALLANDALE BEACH, FL—e Five Racing Thoroughbreds’ Three Witches held off a stretch challenge from heavily favored Florida-bred Maryquitecontrary to register a half-length upset triumph in Saturday’s Grade 3 Princess Rooney at Gulfstream Park.

The $200,000 Princess Rooney, a seven-furlong sprint for fillies and mares, is a designated Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge Series race that offers a Breeders’ Cup nominated winner a fees-paid berth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint to be run Nov. 4 at Santa Anita.

Sent to post at 10-1, Three Witches was one of three Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained fillies in the field of eight entered for the Princess Rooney. The 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief, who was coming off a first level, $25,000 optional claiming win on Aug. 27 at Gulfstream, recorded the first graded-stakes success while making her stakes debut.

“She wasn’t far off on numbers if ‘Mary’ didn’t run her best,” Joseph said. “I think Mary fired. I thought she was going to get us. Most of the time when she gets in that spot, she runs down horses.”

Settled in mid-pack off a quick pace set by Poiema along the backstretch, Three Witches advanced between horses on the far turn under Leonel Reyes, who swung her three-wide around the tiring pacesetter and R Adios Jersey coming off the turn into the stretch. Maryquitecontrary, who had won her last five races over the Gulfstream track, launched a rally from last with a five-wide sweep on the far turn under Luca Panici and posed a serious threat entering the stretch. However, Three Witches kicked in through the stretch to hold off Maryquitecontrary.


“She’s run some decent races where she showed some glimpses of hope and then she’d disappoint after a couple races. We gave her a break and she came back to win well. Today, she put it together. Obviously, she had to make a jump, and she did,” Joseph said.

Three Witches, who had won two of six previous starts, ran seven furlongs in 1:22.89. Maryquitecontrary, a Grade 1-placed, Grade 2 winner, finished second, three-and-a-half lengths clear of third-place finishing Florida-bred R. Adios Jersey. Florida-bred Bluefield was fourth followed in order by Olivia Darling and Florida-breds Rosie’s Halo, Poiema and Flakes. Last Leaf was scratched.

Three Witches is scheduled to sell at the Keeneland November Sale during the week following the Nov. 3-4 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.

“The Breeders’ Cup, we’ll talk about. It’s another jump up. She earned the right to go. We’ll have to decide. [Owner] Bob [Edwards] is going to make that decision. I’ll give him feedback on how she’s doing, but he’ll make the call,” Joseph said.

Rodney Lundock’s Maryquitecontrary, a daughter of Double Diamond Farm stallion First Dude, captured the Grade 2 Inside Information during the Championship Meet to cap a five-race winning streak. She was sent to Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey at Keeneland, where she finished second behind Goodnight Olive in the Grade 1 Madison. She went on to finish fourth in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss and off-the-board in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga, both won by champion Echo Zulu, before returning to Gulfstream. Panici was impressed with the effort of the 7-5 favorite, who is currently in the barn of trainer David Fawkes.

“She ran good. The pace was tough, 44 [seconds] and 1:09. The first part she was not too [near] the speed,” Panici said. “We got a lot of dirt in the face, but I’m happy because at the end she finished very, very good and we’re looking to run her one mile where I think she belongs. I think this winter she’ll be back good, and that’s the main thing.”

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