‘Factor This’ among the big winners at Ellis Park’s Kentucky Downs Preview Day

‘Factor This’ among the big winners at Ellis Park’s Kentucky Downs Preview Day

HENDERSON, Ky. (WFIE) - The pressure never let up on Factor This as he made his 1 ¼-mile trek around Ellis Park on Sunday. It was an expected byproduct that comes with the burden of heavy favoritism, but it still made trainer Brad Cox’s nerves fray slightly as he watched it unfold from afar.

While being the target comes with the territory when one brings a streak of graded victories to the table, so too does having the mettle to turn back any attempts to thwart that momentum. So after sending one threat after another on its way during the $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup Stakes, Factor This dug into the depths of his class in the final strides to keep the late-charging Hierarchy at bay by a half-length and notch his fourth straight triumph.

The Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Stakes was one of five turf stakes on Sunday’s card comprising Kentucky Downs Preview Day at the RUNHAPPY Summer Meet at Ellis Park. A total of $4,118,000 was wagered on the 10-race card, one of the highest in track history.

Having earned consecutive wins in the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Stakes, Grade 2 Muniz Memorial Classic, and Grade 2 Wise Dan Stakes this season, Factor This came into the Preview Turf Stakes with the biggest reputation in the 11-horse field and, by extension, the most to lose. His front-running style is no secret so when the 4-5 favorite bounded away under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, he was met first by longshot Phantom Currency, who kept his head in front through opening fractions of :24.99 and :50.25.

“There was obviously another horse up there on the pace. That’s a tough post (10) to win from, the way they angle the gate at the quarter pole,” said Cox, who watched the race from his base in Louisville. “He had to overcome some things today. Laid in the two path around both turns. But overall, I was super pleased with the horse. He always shows up.”

Factor This put his neck in front of Phantom Currency past the half but just as that challenger began to drop back, Ry’s the Guy started to come with his bid and drew even with the son of The Factor around the far turn.

The nimble turn of foot from Factor This allowed him to put a bit of daylight between himself and his rivals entering the lane but that reprieve was short lived as Hierarchy came to him in deep stretch. To Cox’s relief, that’s as far as an upset bid would get as Factor This hit the wire a half-length in front to capture the race for a second straight year.

“Our horse wears blinkers and I think wants he feels the pressure of the other horse, he’s got a lot of fight in him,” Cox said. “He showed that this winter at the Fair Grounds and probably showed it more than ever this summer at Churchill in the Wise Dan.”

“(The soft turf) was another thing he had to overcome today. There was some pace presence today, the post and he won this race last year and set the track record - I know the race has only been run a few times at that distance.”

The final time was 2:04.52 over a course rated soft. Split the Wickets was third, 3 ¾-lengths behind runner-up Hierarchy.”

“He got a perfect trip saving a lot of ground and got out, but he was second-best,” said Corey Lanerie, jockey of Hierarchy. “We just couldn’t go by him.”

Factor This has two fees-paid berths in $1 million races: the Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup on Sept. 12 at 1 1/2 miles - a race he was fourth in last year - and the Grade 1 Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on September 5 for winning the Fair Grounds’ Grade 2 Muniz.

“We’re going to let the dust settle. I think we’d like to take a shot in the Grade 1 on Derby Day,” Cox said. “I feel l like kept a pretty close eye on that division from a mile and an eighth to a mile and a quarter and I don’t see anyone to be scared of, to be honest with you. I think this horse can win a Grade 1, given the right set up and the distance.”

Owned by Gaining Ground Racing and bred in Kentucky out of the Singspiel (IRE) mare Capricious Miss (GB), Factor This has won four of five starts in this his 5-year-old campaign with his lone defeat being a third-place run in the Colonel E. R. Bradley Stakes at Fair Grounds on January 18. He is also unbeaten in three starts at Ellis Park and improves his overall mark to 11 wins from 30 starts with $902,780 in earnings.

“He’s a cool horse. I get along with him and he makes my job easy,” Bridgmohan said. “You just have to get him in position and he usually does it all. They come to him and he fights. He makes me look good every time. He’s a hard-trying horse and as gutsy as they come. I’m just a passenger on him. He does all the work.”

Background: Factor This taking owners on “pretty crazy” ride

Quotes

Brad Cox, winning trainer, Factor This (by phone from Louisville): “There was obviously another horse up there on the pace. That’s a tough post (11) to win from, the way they angle the gate at the quarter pole. He had to overcome some things today. Laid in the two path around both turns. But overall, I was super pleased with the horse. He always shows up. Very happy with Shaun and the position he put him in. We talked it over this morning how we thought the race would come up. Shaun had a good feeling the horse next to us on the lead would be right there, so he was prepared for that. He did a good job evaluating that. He really gets the most out of this horse.”

(On 1 Hierarchy coming on late) “Yeah he was. Our horse wears blinkers and I think wants he feels the pressure of the other horse, he’s got a lot of fight in him. He showed that this winter at the Fair Grounds and probably showed it more than ever this summer at Churchill in the Wise Dan.”

Factor This has two fees-paid berths in $1 million races: the $1 million, Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup on Sept. 12 at 1 1/2 miles (a race he was fourth in last year after setting the pace) from winning the Ellis race, and the 1 1/8-mile Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Sept. 5, Derby Day for winning the Fair Grounds’ Grade 2 Muniz.

“We’re going to let the dust settle. We’ll talk to Tom and Brian Cutshall. I think we’d like to take a shot in the Grade 1 Derby Day. People are going to say it’s a Grade 1. I feel l like kept a pretty close eye on that division from a mile and an eighth to a mile and a quarter and I don’t see anyone to be scared of, to be honest with you. I think this horse can win a Grade 1, given the right set up and the distance.”

On soft turf today: “That was another thing he had to overcome today. There was some pace presence today, the post and he won this race last year and set the track record - I know the race has only been run a few times at that distance.”

Tessa Bisha (oversees Cox’s Ellis Park divisions, and in the spring Keeneland. She’s had him when he’s been coming off vacations): “The best thing that happened was switching to turf. He always has trained really well on the dirt. He’s actually kind of hard to get along with in the morning to gallop. He can be pretty headstrong. it’s no shock he likes to go to the lead.”

“He’s never run on turf soft like this. But normally as long as he can get in position, he really tries and motors from there. He’d have to really, really hate it, I think to fall apart. He just shows up.”

Shaun Bridgmohan, the jockey for Factor This, winner of Race 10 at Ellis Park, the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup.

“He’s a cool horse. I get along with him and he makes my job easy. You just have to get him in position and he usually does it all. They come to him and he fights. He makes me look good every time. He’s a hard-trying horse and as gutsy as they come. I’m just a passenger on him. He does all the work.“

”I was concerned about the turf after yesterday’s rain, but it shows how much class this horse has. The soft turf wasn’t his greatest surface, but he got over it. It just shows how much tenacity and class he has.” “He’s grown up a lot and he’s matured. I’ve gotten on him in the morning also and the job (trainer) Brad (Cox) and his crew have done with this horse has been phenomenal.”

Corey Lanerie, the jockey for Hierarchy, runner-up in Race 10 at Ellis Park, the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup.

“He got a perfect trip saving a lot of ground and got out, but he was second best. We just couldn’t go by him.”

English Affair back on form in KY Downs Preview Ladies Turf

English Affair went back to her roots on Sunday and in doing so, the Calumet Farm home-bred was able to rediscover her best form.

The four-race losing skid that had mounted up for English Affair since early 2019 came to a halt at the site of her maiden victory when she edged clear of pacesetter She’sonthewarpath to take the $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf Stakes by 1 ½-lengths.

The one-mile Ladies Turf Stakes was one of five turf stakes on Sunday’s card comprising Kentucky Downs Preview Day at the RUNHAPPY Summer Meet at Ellis Park.

Since breaking through to capture the 2018 edition of the Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs, it had been anything but ideal going for English Affair. The daughter of English Channel only made one start in 2019 - a 12th place run in the Grade 3 La Prevoyante Stakes - before going to the sidelines for more than a year with a hind-end injury.

When she resurfaced in the Grade 3 The Very One Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 29, the six-year-old mare could only manage a tenth-place finish that day. Though she came into the Preview Ladies Turf off two more losses at Churchill Downs, English Affair could draw upon some back class specifically at the Pea Patch.

In addition to breaking her maiden at Ellis Park in July 2017, she had finished second in the 2018 running of the Preview Ladies Turf Stakes.

”This filly has shown quality on the right days,” winning trainer Rusty Arnold said. “It seemed like she relished the soft going, got across it good and ran really, really well. She won the (2018) Cardinal on soft ground and she ran the same way, a really, really impressive race.”

“She has been so good to use. She had a rear-end injury at Gulfstream two years ago,” Arnold continued. “I’ve got to thank the Calumet Group for letting her bring us back. Not many people would let you bring a graded-stakes winner back at 6, and they did. And it kind of paid off today, which is great. If we could run well at Kentucky Downs, it would really pay off.”

With jockey Rafael Bejarano in the irons, English Affair got away at the back of the 11-horse field but was able to save ground around the first turn and was ninth as She’sonthewarpath reached the opening quarter in :24.15.

She’sonthewarpath had all the company she could handle up front as she reached the half-mile in :48.50 with Quebec pressing the issue right at her throat and Daddy Is a Legend tugging away as she raced three wide. Looming just behind that pack on the rail, however, was an advancing English Affair, and she used that position to follow She’sonthewarpath when that one spurted clear coming into the top of the lane.

“My horse put me in a great spot saving ground. I was so happy to follow the favorite horse,” Bejarano said. “I was in the perfect position. The rail seemed like it is in great shape after the rain yesterday. These guys (Ellis track crew) do a really good job to keep it safe. I was just waiting and looking for a clearing as we came into the lane. When this horse much the best, she’ll do whatever you want.”

Bejarano and English Affair finally got clear of She’sonthewarpath with about a sixteenth of a mile to go and continued on willingly to the wire to cap a big weekend for Calumet, which also owns Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes winner Vexatious.

The final time for the Ladies Turf Preview was 1:37.35 over a course rated soft. She’sonthewarpath held for second with Frond coming up for third.

“This might be the first time she’s been on the lead; I can’t remember,” said Steve Margolis, trainer of She’sonthewarpath. “(Jockey Chantal Sutherland) did the right thing. She made the lead (from the 1 post) and she galloped around there. She had pace pressure and still dug back in. I don’t think a soft course is her best, but she gave it her all. Solid group of horses. She’s running good, and that’s all we can ask.”

Out of the Colonel Affair mare Lady Melesi, English Affair gets a fees-paid berth in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf and also improves her overall record to four wins from 17 starts with $265,179 after coming home at odds of 14-1. Arnold’s original plan was to run her in the Kentucky Downs’ Ladies Marathon at 1 5/16 miles, but his charge might have just made a case otherwise.

”We don’t know now,” he said with a laugh. “That (free roll in Ladies Turf) might make a difference, especially on that course. We were thinking the mile and five-sixteenths but maybe not now. She sure handled the mile today.”

Ladies Turf quotes:

Rusty Arnold, winning trainer English Affair, who was second in this race in 2018: “This filly has shown quality on the right days. Seemed like she relished the soft going, got across it good and ran really, really well. She won the (2018) Cardinal on soft ground and she ran the same way, a really, really impressive race.”

“She has been so good to use She had a rear-end injury at Gulfstream two years ago. I’ve got to thank the Calumet Group for letting her bring us back. Not many people would let you bring a graded-stakes winner back at 6, and they did. And it kind of paid off today, which is great. If we could run well at Kentucky Downs, it would really pay off.”

Daddy is a Legend: “I haven’t gotten to talk to Florent (Geroux). It looked like she was pulling on the front end and she was maybe too fresh. I don’t know her very well. But she was awful strong on the front end, and it looks like it took its toll.”

English Affair gets a fees-paid berth in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf at a mile. Arnold’s original plan was to run her in the Kentucky Downs’ Ladies Marathon at 1 5/16 miles.

“We don’t know now,” he said with a laugh. “That (free roll in Ladies Turf) might make a difference, especially on that course. We were thinking the mile and five-sixteenths but maybe not now. She sure handled the mile today.”

Steve Margolis, trainer runner-up She’sonthewarpath: “This might be the first time she’s been on the lead; I can’t remember. She (Chantal Sutherland) did the right thing. She made the lead (from the 1 post) and she galloped around there. She had pace pressure and still dug back in. I don’t think a soft course is her best, but she gave it her all. Solid group of horses. She’s running good, and that’s all we can ask.”

(likely to point to $500,000, Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf on Sept. 12)

Rafael Bejarano, jockey for English Affair: “My horse put me in a great spot saving ground. I was so happy to follow the favorite horse. I was in the perfect position. She had a good trip. The rail seemed like it is in great shape after the rain yesterday. These guys (Ellis track crew) do a really good job to keep it safe. I was just waiting and looking for a clearing as we came into the lane. When this horse much the best, she’ll do whatever you want.”

Chantel Sutherland, jockey for second place She’sonthewarpath: “She ran great, I was a little shocked that she was so forward, but she caught a flyer from the gate, so I didn’t want to take away from anything that came easy. She relaxed really well on the backside and even at the 3/8ths pole, but they were trying to come over on her and I had to hold my position. I’m happy with She’sonthewartpath. She’s consistent and Steve (Margolis) does such a great job. The winner ran well today and she had to, to beat us today.”

Into Mystic too good in KY Downs Preview Ladies Sprint

They haven’t been together very long but Into Mystic and her new barn couldn’t ask for a better start to their relationship.

In her first competitive outing since joining the shedrow of trainer Brendan Walsh, Into Mystic made the best possible impression when she wore down pacesetter Ambassador Luna to prevail by 1 ½ lengths and earn her first career stakes triumph in the $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Sprint.

The 5 ½ furlongs Ladies Sprint was one of five turf stakes on Sunday’s card comprising Kentucky Downs Preview Day at the RUNHAPPY Summer Meet at Ellis Park.

Owners G. Chris Coleman and Brad E. King sent Into Mystic into Walsh’s care following her fourth-place finish for trainer Jeff Mullins in the Grade 2 Monrovia Stakes at Santa Anita Park on May 25. The daughter of Into Mischief was beaten just 1 ¾ lengths by the winner that day and used a last-to-first rally to win by 5 ½ lengths going 5 ½ furlongs at Sunland Park on February 16.

“Hats off to Brendan. He gave me all the confidence in the world riding her today,” said winning jockey Joe Talamo after their triumph on Sunday. “I watched her replays, and she ran some pretty impressive races. When I went to the paddock, he said, ‘Man, she’s training tremendously.’ He pretty much said, ‘Ride her the way you want. Just get her in a good spot.’ She was there for me the whole way.”

“She broke really sharp. That other outside filly cleared and we were pretty content where we were. Five-sixteenths pole, quarter pole I kind of tipped her out and from there on she was pretty impressive.”

Talamo found out quickly how much he had to work with as Into Mystic rated just off an opening quarter mile in :22.58 in tight quarters on the inside.

As they left the quarter pole, Into Mystic angled out and went to work wearing down a stubborn Ambassador Luna, who finally gave way late.

“My filly is really nice and going into the race, I thought she’d sit possibly third or fourth behind some of the speed horses I suspected would be up front,” said Mitchell Murrill, jockey of Ambassador Luna. “We broke out of the gate on the front end and I just nursed her along as best I could. She started looking around being in the front and not really used to that. It took away from her performance going around the turn. When I picked her up, she went along with the other horse, which just had a little more in the tank. Overall she ran very well and I’m excited to see what’s next for her.”

Sent off as the 8-5 favorite in the eight-horse field, Into Mystic covered the distance in 1:04.18 over a course rated soft. Dance Rhythms was third, 2 ½ lengths behind Ambassador Luna. Out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Loveofalifetime, Into Mystic has now won four of 11 career starts and bolstered her bankroll to $188,023.

“She’s a nice filly. She’s done nothing but impress us since she came to us,” said Walsh, adding that the $500,000, Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint would be next for Into Mystic. “Her last run in California was very good. That form has stood up since. I was quite concerned about the ground, because I think she’ll be a better filly on faster ground. I think she has some big days ahead of her.”

“She’s a lovely filly and she’s got a lot of heart. I think she showed that today to fend them off.”

Ladies Sprint Quotes

Joe Talamo, winning jockey, Into Mystic: “Hats off to Brendan. He gave me all the confidence in the world riding her today. I watched her replays, and she ran some pretty impressive races. When I went to the paddock, he said, ‘Man, she’s training tremendously.’ He pretty much said, ‘Ride her the way you want. Just get her in a good spot.’ She was there for me the whole way. She broke really sharp. That other outside filly cleared and we were pretty content where we were. Five-sixteenths pole, quarter pole I kind of tipped her out and from there on she was pretty impressive.”

On turf: “She seemed to handle it pretty well, especially coming off a layoff like that. I definitely think she’s going to move forward even from there.”

(On winning mixed-breed race at Los Al, saw replay) “I’m pretty familiar with Los Alamitos, coming from Southern California. Believe me, I knew she was pretty quick to win that race.”

Winning trainer Brendan Walsh: (On two races ago when she won at 870 yards at Los Al by five in an allowance race) “Yeah, I had to look into that myself when I saw it. But she’s a nice filly. she’s done nothing but impress us since she came to us. Her last run in California (G2 Monrovia) was very good. That form has stood up since. I was quite concerned about the ground, because I think she’ll be a better filly on faster ground. I think she has some big days ahead of her.”

Pointing now for $500,000, Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint. “That was the sole point of bringing her here, to point for the race at Kentucky Downs. … She’s a lovely filly and she’s got a lot of heart. I think she showed that today to fend them off.”

Mitchell Murrill, the jockey for Ambassador Luna: “My filly is really nice and going into the race, I thought she’d sit possibly third or fourth behind some of the speed horses I suspected would be up front. We broke out of the gate on the front end and I just nursed her along as best I could. She started looking around being in the front and not really used to that. It took away from her performance going around the turn. When I picked her up, she went along with the other horse, which just had a little more in the tank. Overall she ran very well and I’m excited to see what’s next for her.””I think she’s got the talent and ability to run there, if she can take on those hills and turns. She’s a smart filly and does everything well.”

Rusty Arnold, trainer of millionaire Morticia, who was up close early and weakened to last: “It hasn’t worked out. She didn’t come back as a 6-year-old. I really don’t have an answer, but my guess - and I don’t like to say this without talking to Mr. (G. Watts) Humphrey - but I’d say she’s a broodmare. It was kind of a decision we made, we wanted to get back to Kentucky Downs (after she won the Grade 3 Ladies Sprint last year). But for some reason, it’s not glaring to us -- she seems to be a sound horse, she seems to be a happy horse, she looks fantastic - but she’s given it up. We’ll talk it over. The worst time ever to make a decision is after they run, because you’re disappointed. She owes us nothing. She’s been so good to us.”

Spectacular Gem shines in Kentucky Downs Preview Tourist Mile

Multiple stakes-winner Spectacular Gem proved he could string together consecutive top outings as he cut the corner coming off the far turn and had enough to hold off graded-stakes winner Mr. Misunderstood for the victory in the $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Tourist Mile, one of five turf stakes on Sunday’s card comprising Kentucky Downs Preview Day at the RUNHAPPY Summer Meet at Ellis Park.

Though Spectacular Gem had proven he could repeatedly deliver against stakes competition, the bay son of Can the Man hadn’t been able to get consecutive victories on his resume. That all changed during his eight-furlong journey Sunday when he made good on his 9-5 favoritism in the 11-horse field.

As is customary for the 4-year-old colt, he broke well out of post 3 and made his way toward the front where he was joined by Corruze to his outside pressing the issue. Corruze held a short advantage as he reached the quarter in :24.33 and a half-mile in :48.19. but Spectacular Gem was giving jockey James Graham indications he was ready to go on down the backstretch.

“I was kind of surprised the 6 horse (Corruze) going out there like he did, and James just kind of sat off him a little bit,” said Jimmy Baker, trainer of Spectacular Gem. “It looked like he had horse going down the backside.”

Graham let the colt have his wish entering the top of the stretch as they whipped off the turn and opened up by two lengths on their rivals with about a furlong to run. A late run by Mr. Misunderstood made things interesting, but Spectacular Gem had plenty in reserve as he crossed the wire 1 ¼-lengths in front.

“He actually had a pretty good trip. My horse relaxed around the inside, was comfortable,” Graham said. “Turning for home he picked it up and did it the right way. He’s cool, because he does everything you ask him to do. Last time he was aggressive and I used him. Today he wasn’t nearly as aggressive. He was pliable, which is great. Jim’s doing a great job with him. Just hope we keep on going forward.”

The final time for the one-mile test was 1:37.37 over a course rated soft.

Mr. Misunderstood, who won the Preview Tourist Mile in 2018 and was third in the race last year, held for second by another 1 ¼-lengths over Hembree.

“Turning for home, I guess he hit it sharp enough where he kind of spurted out a little bit, opened up a couple,” said Baker, who added that Spectacular Gem would indeed point for the $750,000 Tourist Mile at Kentucky Downs. “They were kind of running at him the last little part of it. I was glad the wire came when it came. Usually if he gets the lead by himself he’ll finish a little better. Today he didn’t. He probably got a little tired but he ran good enough to win it.”

Spectacular Gem tipped his hand on what was to come Sunday with his effort in a one-mile allowance race at Churchill Downs on June 26, where he also bested Mr. Misunderstood by a clear margin. Owned by Candi Baker and bred in Kentucky out of the Malabar Gold mare Blackhawk Honey, Spectacular Gem now boasts an overall record of six wins from 16 starts with $307,281 in earnings.

Tourist Mile Quotes

James Graham, winning jockey Spectacular Gem: “He actually had a pretty good trip. My horse relaxed around the inside, was comfortable. Turning for home he picked it up and did it the right way. He’s cool, because he does everything you ask him to do. Last time he was aggressive and I used him. Today he wasn’t nearly as aggressive. He was pliable, which is great. Jim’s doing a great job with him. Just hope we keep on going forward.”

Jimmy Baker, winning trainer Spectacular Gem: “I was kind of surprised the 6 horse (Corruze) going out there like he did, and James just kind of sat off him a little bit. It looked like he had horse going down the backside. Then turning for home, I guess he hit it sharp enough where he kind of spurted out a little bit, opened up a couple. They were kind of running at him the last little part of it. I was glad the wire came when it came. Usually if he gets the lead by himself he’ll finish a little better. Today he didn’t. He probably got a little tired but he ran good enough to win it.”

Concerned about turf? “I was very concerned. I didn’t sleep well the last couple of nights. I know he does his best running on firm turf. I can relax and breathe and sleep good tonight.”

Baker said they are pointing for the $750,000 Tourist Mile at Kentucky Downs.

Candie Baker, winning owner and trainer’s wife: “It’s awesome. A lot of fun. He’s a lot of fun. Jimmy has done a great job with him. He’s been a really, really nice horse. He’s a diamond in the rough. Just hope he can keep on going.”

Best horse they have owned personally? Candie: “He’s definitely No. 1. He’s been a big, big surprise.”

Staton Flurry, owner runner-up Mr. Misunderstood: “He ran big. He just got kind of bottled up and couldn’t get to make his late move in time. But he ran a real big race. I can’t say anything negative. The 1 hole is never a positive thing. But he got out and made his late run A mile and a sixteenth, I think we win. We’ll get ‘em next time. We’ve run first, second and third in this spot now.”

Flurry said his next race will be the Opening Verse at Churchill Downs.

Florent Geroux the jockey for runner-up Mr. Misunderstood. “I had a good trip. I was done inside, so I had to weave my way through a little bit turning for home. The winner escaped us. My horse ran a good race, but we couldn’t get to him in the end.”

RUNHAPPY Preview Turf Sprint: Carotari wins under Leparoux

Under heady handling from jockey Julien Leparoux, Carotari stalked and pounced his way to his second career stakes victory when he ran down High Crime in late stretch to prevail by a length over Tiger Blood in the $100,000 RUNHAPPY Preview Turf Sprint, one of five turf stakes on Sunday’s card comprising Kentucky Downs Preview Day at the RUNHAPPY Summer Meet at Ellis Park.

The 4-year-old gelded son of Artie Schiller had only been worse than third once in his last six starts, a level of consistency noted by the betting public who sent him off at 3-1 odds. As High Crime and Johnny Unleashed raced side by side through an opening quarter-mile in :21.78, Carotari sat just off those two in fourth with Hollis to his inside.

As the field reached the far turn, Leparoux started asking his mount for some more punch and the two launched a three-wide bid coming into the lane. With Johnny Unleashed weakening from his earlier exploits, Carotari took aim on that one and promptly left him in his wake before rolling on by High Crime to hit the wire in 1:04.76 for 5 ½ furlongs over a course rated soft.

“We had a great trip. We sat behind the speed on the outside,” Leparoux said. “He was traveling good. The track is pretty soft. He struggled a little bit coming to the turn but he finished up strong. He tried hard and we got there.”

Tiger Blood rallied from last in the seven-horse field to get up for place honors by a head over High Crime, who held third over Tell Your Daddy.

“I was planning on being in front, but the other horse broke pretty well and I just couldn’t keep up with him early,” said Corey Lanerie, who rode Tiger Blood. “We got out-sprinted right into the first turn. I was forced to play what was dealt to me and wasn’t really going anywhere. Then I kind of got off the inside and he kept coming. I thought I was still maybe going to get him, but we ran out of racetrack. He ran well though.”

“He ran well,” jockey Miguel Mena said of High Crime. “Good trip, broke good, got a breather. I had a lot of pressure from the 3. But he ran his race, he ran hard.”

Trained by Brian Lynch for owner William Branch, Carotari opened his 2020 campaign with a runner-up finish in the World of Trouble Turf Sprint Stakes at Gulfstream Park on January 25. The bay gelding got over the stakes hump next time out when he took the Silks Run at Gulfstream on March 7 and came into his Ellis Park test off a third-place finish in an allowance race at Churchill Downs on June 27.

“Couldn’t have been happier with him,” Lynch said by phone. “I was a bit concerned; I didn’t think he’d be a big fan of a bit of cut in the ground. But Julien gave him a fantastic ride. Full credit to the 1 (High Crime). I thought the 1 ran great. Got lucky to run him down in the late stages. But Carotari’s effort was fantastic. His last race was good, but we thought there was a little bit left there that he didn’t show up. But he sure found it today.”

Lynch said Carotari would point for the $700,000, Grade 3 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint Sept. 12 at Kentucky Downs.

Carotari was bred in Kentucky by Tom Evans and Pam Clark out of the Rahy mare Soother and improved his record to five wins from 15 career starts with $311,018 in earnings.

Jockey quotes

Julien Leparoux, winner Carotari: “We had a great trip. We sat behind the speed on the outside. He was traveling good. The track is pretty soft. He struggled a little bit coming to the turn but he finished up strong. He tried hard and we got there.”

Corey Lanerie, second, Tiger Blood: “I was planning on being in front, but the other horse broke pretty well and I just couldn’t keep up with him early. We got out sprinted right into the first turn. I was forced to play what was dealt to me and wasn’t really going anywhere. Then I kind of got off the inside and he kept coming. I thought I was still maybe going to get him, but we ran out of racetrack. He ran well though.”

(What do think about KY Downs for this horse?) “I’m sure he’ll like it. It seems like he wants to go a little further, so that won’t hurt him. The mile and half, going up-hill. I think he’ll get it done.”

Miguel Mena, third, High Crime: “He ran well. Good trip, broke good, got a breather. I had a lot of pressure from the 3. But he ran his race, he ran hard.”

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