KEENELAND COMES THROUGH…AGAIN
What’s the best thing about Keeneland Race Course in the spring time?…Well,…maybe everything!
Long considered on of the most magical places in the sporting world, the 147 acres of bliss located just outside Lexington, Kentucky has been pulling a Houdini since 1936. Offering many forms of magic to many different people, Blue Grass Stakes Day 2019 saw more than just a few rabbits come out the hat as 11 Thoroughbred races were run…let us expound…
MILLER TIME IN A SIPPING SACK
Those that haven’t been completely under a rock lately have heard about the unfortunate happenings at Santa Anita. Track closures, and other hurdles have made some California-based trainers decide to travel with their runners. Winning a graded stakes race is always challenging, shipping and winning a graded stakes is even more challenging. That’s why some folks may have wondered why West coast sensation Peter Miller was sending Spiced Perfection to the grade 1 Madison. Not necessarily the most intimidating looking filly, the California-bred daughter of Smiling Tiger was in deep here. Last year’s Sprint division champ Shamrock Rose and an unbeaten at the distance Late Night Pow Wow were just two of a salty field of nine. Having never won a stakes race at Keeneland, this didn’t look like the spot to start a streak. And then the gates opened and it was Miller time.
Running just off the leader with solid early fractions (22.56 ¼ mile, 45.53 ½ mile), Spiced Perfection pulled even with front-running Amy’s Challenge as they turned for home. Looking her opponent in the eye, the Miller trainee was full of fight and obviously well prepared. Battling all the way to the wire, Perfection was just that as she refused to lose and rewarded her connections for deciding to bring her to Keeneland.
“When you look at her she is like a brown paper bag,” says Miller. “She’s kind of plain and just doesn’t look like a lot but she’s got a lot of heart. I guess it’s whats inside the bag that matters the most.”
In this case Miller is right about what’s inside. Like when you get that cold one from the beer store and they put it inside a sipping sack. The bag just insulates the specialness it contains. The hard working horse handler knew what he had and after the Madison and everybody else knew as it was all smiles for Miller.
“Winning on the road is always good,” says Miller. “Getting a grade 1 at Keeneland is fantastic. We couldn’t be happier.”
DERBY FEVER CASE CONFIRMED FOR VEKOMA
The centerpiece for the day is a major prep for the Kentucky Derby. The Blue Grass Stakes provides an excellent opportunity for horses to validate themselves as legitimate when it comes to the world’s most famous race. Here is where a lightly raced but vastly talented colt comes into the picture. Vekoma came in as the morning line favorite in a race deemed WIDE open. With two wins and a third place finish in three lifetime starts, the George Weaver trained Keeneland sales graduate had shown talent, but was he good enough to give his Kentucky-bred trainer his second starter in the Derby?
As the 14 challengers lined up, all felt as though this was a great spot to punch a ticket to Louisville. Question was could this son of Candy Ride over come his inexperience and get the mile and an eighth distance. Once the gates opened everyone got their answer. Breaking from post 2, Vekoma was just off some reasonable fractions (23.36 ¼ 47.03 ½ mile) and primed to pounce. Making his move as the far turn entered the stretch, jockey Javier Castellano hit the gas pedal. Displaying the turn of foot that made him the post time favorite, Vekoma opened up on the field and won by an easy 3½ lengths. His peeps may have been dreaming of contracting a case of the Derby fever, but after that powerful score the mercury in the thermometer had risen for sure.
“I have had a mild case but now you can turn up the volume on that,” says George Weaver. “He’s a very good athlete and ran a great race here. This is going to be a lot of fun.”
And just like that a lightly raced colt stamped himself as legitimate and provided some people with a fever that will be remembered forever.
CASHING CHECKS AND BREAKING NECKS
The sport of Thoroughbred racing has many wonderful layers. One of the coolest is absolutely cashing tickets. The speculative aspect makes it an adrenaline rush for sure. When you have some skin in the game everything is ramped up exponentially. The real beauty of this game is it can be low risk high yield. That’s exactly what every investor wants. Keeneland unequivocally offers these David Copperfield opportunities and April 6, 2019 was no different.
The fifth race was coming up and my son was yet to enjoy a winning ticket. Having grown up at the track he understands some of the different angles and is well aware of the potential payouts on the exotic wagers. He had been helping me shoot some pictures and video for our upcoming Kentucky Derby special but now it was time to get down to the business of trying to cash some checks. He rattled off a bet to the clerk, grabbed his ticket and off we sped to the track.
As the race unfolded it looked to be a repeat of the first four as the favorite was on the lead. But suddenly a 46 to 1 shot under jockey Florent Geroux began tearing up the turf and made the lead at the top of the stretch. As Lantiz looked to pull off a shocker, the horse marked 1A exploded and rocketed towards the finish line. Snuck Out was his name and he closed from last after ¾ of a mile to third at the finish. Reserved yet obviously excited, I knew he had his first winner of the day, but I wasn’t sure what it was. Being right about something is always good, but getting paid for your correct speculation is even better.
I asked if he had one of those longshots across the board and he said “No I hit the trifecta”. My ears perked up and I asked again to make sure I heard him right. He had bet a 50 cent trifecta box which was a $3 wager. He asked me what I thought it would pay and I simply said it will be a day-maker type ticket with 46 to 1 on top and 25 to 1 on the bottom. As we anxiously awaited the official sign to flash and the payouts to be posted the excitement she was a building. As we endured what seemed like the longest three minutes ever, we both began to realize what we already knew…this was one of those special moments you dream about.
Finally it flashed on the board… 50 cent trifecta $1028.60. What the what…A grand on a $3 wager…wooosh does not even begin to describe it. His feet never touched the ground the rest of the day and in fact still may not be on terra firma. We yipped like never before and needless to say his day was made.
Cashing that ticket was great in many ways. Of course the payout was good, but the rewarding of his faith in the sport was even better. For me it was maybe more than it was for him. I got to see my son shine and was right there with him through it all. As we recalled some tickets cashed and trashed in the past he said “It can happen”. I simply replied “No son…It did happen” and we slapped a resounding high five.
As a major proponent of the sport I understand the special times Thoroughbred racing creates. That day will live with us forever. Thank you Keeneland for putting on another magic show!!!