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Undefeated Maple Leaf Mel tops Saturday graded stakes double for Cross Traffic

July 9, 2023

Cross Traffic accounted for a pair of graded stakes winners within 15 minutes time on Saturday, with Defining Purpose taking the $200,000 Indiana Oaks (G3) at Horseshoe Indianapolis and Maple Leaf Mel taking the $175,000 Victory Ride S. (G3) at Belmont Park.

With over $3.2 million in progeny earnings to date in 2023, Cross Traffic ranks third on the Sixth-Crop sire list. He leads the list by graded stakes winners and Grade 1 winners.

Defining Purpose, who won Keeneland’s Ashland S. (G1) in April, let longshot Sandra D lead the Oaks field around the first turn while she tracked just off the pace in second. She was content to hold her spot until three furlongs to run, when she made her move for the lead. After six furlongs in 1:14 flat, Defining Purpose had plenty left for the stretch run and held off Taxed to win by 1 ¼-lengths in 1:43.83 for the 1 1/16-miles on a “good” main track.

“I think the spacing is a big deal for her,” said trainer Ken McPeek. “We spaced her race coming out of Oaklawn and then didn’t run her until the Ashland. And this race, we spaced her race again. She just runs a bit stronger with a little bit wider gap. We might sit on her until the [GI] Cotillion [G1, Parx in September]. But I was impressed with her.”

Owned by Katsumi Yoshida, Defining Purpose is a three-time stakes winner of $673,788. She was bred in Kentucky by Colette VanMatre. The gray/roan filly’s dam Defining Hope was a four-time stakes winner.

Maple Leaf Mel, who has not lost in five starts, was brilliant once again in taking the 6 ½-furlong Victory Ride by 2 ½-lengths over the previously undefeated Dazzling Blue. As she has been in her four prior outings, Maple Leaf Mel was on the lead at every point of call again Saturday. She set fractions of :22.54 and :45.52 to arrive at the head of the stretch with a one-length lead. Full of run in the stretch, she extended her lead and stopped the timer in 1:15.74 on the fast main track.

Her Beyer Speed Figure of 99 is a career best.

“It definitely gives me a big relief,” said Melanie Giddings, a former assistant to the winner’s previous trainer, Jeremiah Englehart, but now herself the trainer of record and for whom the filly is named. “She’s amazing. She’s won at Aqueduct, Belmont, twice at Saratoga, and Pimlico. She’s pretty incredible.”

Maple Leaf Mel’s five wins include the Miss Preakness S.(G3), the East View S. at Aqueduct this year, and the Seeking the Ante S. at Saratoga in 2022. Her overall earnings are $399,650. Maple Leaf Mel was bred by Joe Fafone and is owned by August Dawn Farm, who purchased her for $150,000 at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-old sale.