Two years ago, I was bullish on Top Decile going into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. A year ago, her connections had announced her retirement and placed her in the Keeneland November sale.
Today, I saw her win a horse race.
She had won her debut at Saratoga, and finished a solid second in the Alcibiades (GI). She was a talented filly going in the right direction, and I was excited for her future.
Top Decile did not disappoint in the Breeders’ Cup, even though she did not win. She crossed the wire second, beaten half a length by Take Charge Brandi — a filly who appreciated how well the track was playing for speed, but also proved to be a better runner than her 60/1 odds that day suggested.
Before today, that was the last time much had gone well for her on the racetrack.
Top Decile made her three-year-old debut in the Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds, going off at even-money but crossing the wire a disappointing sixth. That had her off the Oaks trail. She returned in an allowance at Saratoga, finished tenth as the favourite, and her connections announced her retirement the next day.
But, things do not always happen as intended. She went through the ring at Keeneland November 2015 as a racing or broodmare prospect, and Adena Springs purchased her for $400K.
It turned out, more racing was in Top Decile’s cards after all. She returned for new trainer Daniel Vella in a two-turn N1X allowance over the main track at Woodbine back in June. The bettors sent her off as the slight second choice in a field of seven. She finished last.
Today, she was entered in another main-track N1X at Woodbine. Unlike her last try, however, Top Decile cut back to six and a half furlongs for the first time since her maiden victory over two years ago. She came in off a consistent series of four-furlong, then five-furlong works.
I hoped for the best, given my enthusiasm for Top Decile from two years ago. I remembered the classy filly who looked like a star in the making. I wanted to see sparks of that.
I feared the worst, as it had been so long since she had shown her best on the track.
She settled within striking range early: along the rail, tracking right behind pacesetter Fuscetta.
Into the far turn, she looked like she was backing up badly. She had been sitting in third, but quickly faded to fourth, fifth, sixth. Turning for home, the race looked like a lost cause.
Top Decile then stopped losing ground. Rider Alan Garcia asked her on the turn for home, and she responded. She began to pass horses. She improved to fifth, then passed a line of horses to gain second, then ran by tiring pacesetter Fuscetta as if she were standing still.
Top Decile drew clear, and crossed the wire two lengths clear of rallying favourite Bearsatlanticmist. She showed will, she showed talent, and she won for the first time since her career debut.
No matter what happens on Canadian International day, it will be hard for any race to be as enjoyable or fulfilling to watch as this one.