04/22/2017 5:41PM

California shipper Itsinthepost handles yielding turf in Elkhorn

Coady Photography
Tyler Baze guides Itsinthepost to a 1 1/4-length win in the Grade 2 Elkhorn.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – If it seemed Itsinthepost might have been out of his element when shipping in from Southern California for the Grade 2, $250,000 Elkhorn Stakes, the bay gelding dispelled any such notions by proving clearly best Saturday with a 1 1/4-length victory at Keeneland.

Always within striking distance under Tyler Baze, Itsinthepost edged clear in the final furlong of the 1 1/2-mile Elkhorn, which was conducted over a turf course rendered yielding on a dreary afternoon of rain and unseasonable cold.

“He’s just been such a consistent horse, whatever we’ve done with him,” said Jeff Mullins, who assumed the training of Itsinthepost for the Red Barons Barn LLC last spring following the retirement of Darrell Vienna.

Itsinthepost returned $7.40 as a slight favorite in a field of eight after finishing in 2:31.22. Charming Kitten closed hard to be second, another neck before Bigger Picture, with Danish Dynaformer another neck back in fourth.

The Elkhorn marked the 25th career start for Itsinthepost, who had raced exclusively in California following five starts in France, with all but one of those 19 prior races coming over the typically firmer turf courses of his home circuit. That was of absolutely no consequence Saturday, as the French-bred 5-year-old strode clear after moving outside to challenge for the lead with a little more than a quarter-mile to go.

For Baze and Mullins, it was their first-ever triumph at Keeneland.

“I had a fine trip,” said Baze, a perennial leading rider on the Southern California circuit. “It’s been my dream to win a race at Keeneland. It’s great. This horse has been just phenomenal. He gives it everything.”

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For Mullins, it was his first starter in Kentucky since I Want Revenge was scratched as the program favorite on the morning of the 2009 Kentucky Derby. His work with Itsinthepost has been exemplary, as the gelding now has been first or second in nine of his 10 starts for Mullins, including a last-out win in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey and seconds in the Grade 2 San Marcos and Grade 3 San Gabriel. The distance of his races has increased gradually in recent months.

“It seems like the further he goes, the better he gets,” said Mullins. As for a potential next race, “we’re just going to enjoy this for now,” he added.

Itsinthepost now has five career wins, with the $150,000 winner’s share increasing his bankroll to $512,712.

After the top four, the Elkhorn order was Red Rifle, Bullards Alley, Chocolate Ride, and Interpol. Early scratches from an original lineup of 11 were Grey Wizard, Taghleeb, and Roman Approval.

The $2 exacta (4-9) paid $55.60, the $1 trifecta (4-9-5) returned $80.70, and the 10-cent superfecta (4-9-5-2) was worth $30.21.

On-track attendance was 18,505.

Racing resumes here Sunday at 1:05 p.m. Eastern with Military Day. The final stakes of the 15-day spring meet is the Elkhorn’s twin sister, the Grade 3 Bewitch, which will be run on the closing-day card Friday.