06/25/2016 6:21PM

Athena lands jackpot, but no one solves Single 6

Coady Photography
Athena, with Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard, wins the Roxelana Stakes at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

While Athena landed a jackpot victory in the $67,000 Roxelana Stakes for fillies and mares Saturday at Churchill Downs, no one else did, adding steam to the chase for the Single 6.

Athena ($38.20) was sent away as the second-longest shot on the board in the feature, but the presence of three winning favorites earlier in the sequence ensured that there was not the single winning ticket required to disperse the Single 6 jackpot. There is a carryover of $654,190.73 into Sunday’s card, with a mandatory payout for closing night, July 2, if the pool is not taken down before that.

The Roxelana was the second stakes victory for Athena, who took the Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes last December at Laurel. The daughter of Street Sense won for the fifth time in 13 career starts, with four of those wins coming within her last six starts.

“Just maturity,” trainer Helen Pitts said. “I’ve kind of figured her out. Less is more with her. She likes her ponying. She kind of tells me. I get on her every day. She hasn’t filled [multiple Grade 1 winner] Einstein’s shoes yet, but she’s close. She’s my girl.”

Athena was ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., who was scoring his third win of the day. The pair settled back in third early as even-money favorite Diva Express was pumped up through snappy early splits of 21.64 and 44.85. Meanwhile, second choice I'm a Looker, dead-heat winner of the Grade 3 Winning Colors Stakes with Diva Express last month, sat in sixth, about six lengths back.

Ramona's Wildcat, who had been tracking the leader in second, drew to even terms around the far turn. But the rest of the field was soon upon the top two, with Athena and I'm a Looker revving up outside and Milam desperately looking for room inside, where she was stymied. Athena eventually struck the front inside the final furlong and drew clear steadily from there. 

After attempting to split horses, I'm a Looker shifted outside to take aim on the eventual winner, with her rally falling 1 1/2 lengths short. Another three-quarters behind the top two came the stubborn Ramona's Wildcat, who edged out Diva Express by a neck to round out the top three.

The final time for the six furlongs was 1:09.67.

Athena had been cross-entered in the Grade 3 Chicago Handicap earlier Saturday evening at Arlington Park, with Pitts opting to scratch and stay home.

“To be honest, if I was to try to see if she was a come-from-behind sprinter, this was the place to do it,” Pitts said. “You have the long stretch and she can run out of her own stall. I just we thought we’d take a shot. I didn’t know if it was right or wrong, but we were taking a shot.”

-Additional reporting by Byron King