In first start against males, War Like Goddess much the best in Joe Hirsch

War Like Goddess (2) wins the Grade I Turf Classic at Aqueduct on Saturday.

War Like Goddess (2) wins the Grade I Turf Classic at Aqueduct on Saturday.

HORSE RACING – No complaints from trainer Bill Mott this time.

After War Like Goddess won the Grade II Glens Falls at Saratoga Race Course on Whitney Day Aug. 6, he expressed disappointment that the next logical stop for his star turf mare, the Flower Bowl, had been downgraded from a I to a II.

Then War Like Goddess ran in the Flower Bowl, anyway, and got beat, as she and jockey Joel Rosario dawdled behind a ridiculously slow pace.

On Saturday, she raced against males for the first time in her career and was much the best, staying out of traffic heading into the final turn and exhibiting her trademark closing kick to win the Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Aqueduct.

That puts her on the fast track to run against males again, in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, especially since the BC Turf mile-and-a-half distance should suit her running style better than the mile-and-a-quarter BC Filly and Mare Turf.

“I always thought she belonged [against males],” Mott told the New York Racing Association. “There’s good horses and she could get outrun, but I think she deserves an opportunity, for sure. I don’t think we’re out of line whatsoever. We’re a long ways from the winner’s circle, but I think she deserves her opportunity. She’s done nothing wrong.”

Ridden by Jose Lezcano, War Like Goddess won her ninth of 12 career starts.

Mott said after the Glens Falls that he’d consider running against males in the Grade I Sword Dancer instead of the Flower Bowl, because of the Flower Bowl downgrade, but also because the Sword Dancer is a mile and half.

Prior to the Flower Bowl, her previous loss was a close third in the BC Filly and Mare Turf in November that cost War Like Goddess an Eclipse Award.

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Immediately after the Flower Bowl, in which War Like Goddess scorched the final quarter-mile in under 22 seconds but came up a neck short of catching unchallenged front-runner Virginia Joy, the BC Turf option looked even better. The path there would include the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, a BC Win-and-You-re-In qualifier for that race.

Lezcano and War Like Goddess, the 4-5 betting favorite, settled into stalking position behind Bye Bye Melvin and stayed away from trouble three paths wide down the back stretch.

She took the lead outside the eighth pole and rolled to a 2 3/4-length victory, as Bye Bye Melvin held on for third.

“It looked like at the eighth pole she got to him, and she wasn’t doing it on her own,” Mott said. “He did tap her, and then she went on. It looked like he tapped her, and then the second time he tapped her, she really went.”

“He told me the horse can lug in or out, but he never told me, ‘I want you here or over there,’” Lezcano said. “The filly is very easy to ride. She broke very good and I moved her up a little more than I wanted to, but she seemed a little quiet, so I moved her up a little more.

“She’s a very nice mare and she does everything right. When I asked her, she gave me her race. She’s a very good horse. When you ride a horse for Billy, you’ve always got a chance to win this kind of race.”

Mott and Lezcano also teamed up to win the Grade II Vosburgh on the card, with 1-2 betting favorite Elite Power against a short field.

In the Grade II Matron for 2-year-old fillies, Kentucky shipper American Apple, coming off a maiden win at Kentucky Downs, won by a neck at odds of 47-1.

At Keeneland, Golden Pal, the best turf sprinter in the country, easily won the Grade II Woodford for the second year in a row; and the Chad Brown-trained In Italian duplicated her front-running win in the Grade I Diana at Saratoga by comfortably holding off Regal Glory in the Grade I First Lady.

Trainer Todd Pletcher swept the last two stakes on the card when Hopeful winner Forte and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., outdueled Loggins (Florent Geroux) in the Grade I Futurity for 2-year-olds, and Annapolis won the Grade I Turf Mile.

Geroux filed an objection for interference inside the eighth pole, but it was denied by the stewards. Forte and Loggins were shoulder-to-shoulder for the length of the stretch.

Annapolis was coming off a win in the Saranac at Saratoga.

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