05/25/2013 5:40PM

Churchill Downs: Dark Cove wins as highweight in Louisville Handicap

Dark Cove (No. 6), with Rosie Napravnik aboard, wins the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap for his second straight graded stakes victory.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Dark Cove was spotting his opponents four to eight pounds Saturday in the Grade 3, $111,800 Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs. So, as the 6-year-old horse clung grimly to the lead in deep stretch of the 1 1/2-mile turf race, Mike Maker admitted to having hard feelings about the weight assignments.

But after Dark Cove held on to win by a half-length over Atigun, with Najjaar just another nose back in third, Maker was willing to forgive, forget, and make merry. Rosie Napravnik made up the majority of the 122-pound impost aboard Dark Cove, who returned $6.40 to win as the second choice in a field of nine older horses.

“It is what it is, I guess,” Maker said. “When they make you the highweight, it means you’ve been doing something right.”

For a couple of months now, Maker and his main clients, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, have been doing more than just a few things right. Victory in the Louisville Handicap continued an incredible run for the owner-trainer team, who not only smashed records in their respective categories at Keeneland last month but have continued to win at a high percentage since moving April 27 to Churchill.

Through Saturday, Ramsey already had 14 wins, and Maker had 16 at a 17-day-old meet.

Dark Cove, a Kentucky-bred by Medaglia d’Oro, was claimed in April 2012 for $50,000. The horse ran in four straight claiming races before stretching out to 1 1/2 miles and breaking loose with a 4 1/4-length victory in his previous start, the Grade 2 Elkhorn on the April 26 closing-day card at Keeneland.

Maker said he wants to keep Dark Cove in turf marathons and that the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes on July 13 at Arlington Park is a logical next destination.

Ken Ramsey was not on hand Saturday because he was attending a high-school reunion in Barbourville, Ky., according to his son, Jeff.

Dark Cove finished in 2:27.29 over a firm course for his eighth win from 23 career starts.

The $2 exacta (6-4) paid $21.60, the $1 trifecta (6-4-7) returned $93, and the 10-cent superfecta (6-4-7-1) was worth $51.32.

Due to several longshot winners who directly preceded the Louisville (66-1, 16-1, and 13-1), there were no perfect tickets in the pick-five wager, which is held on the last five races daily. The combination of 10-5-6-6-6 was worth $23,761.75 for each 50-cent ticket with 4 of 5. The pool was $88,017.