09/22/2012 4:07PM

Delaware: Optimizer uses newfound speed to take Kent

Optimizer, ridden by Jon Court, wins his first career stakes in the Grade 3 Kent.

Optimizer spent the first 12 races of his career as a deep closer on dirt. But something happened in his second time on turf that enabled Optimizer to display early speed he had never before shown.

One start after wiring a group that included older horses in a first-level optional $35,000 claimer at Saratoga, Optimizer used his newfound speed to take Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,625 Kent Stakes for 3-year-olds at Delaware Park.

Optimizer ($8.40), ridden by Jon Court, pressured Excaper throughout the first seven furlongs of the 1 1/8-mile Kent. Excaper, ridden by Alex Solis, set contested fractions of 46.99 seconds and 1:10.70 racing on a firm course with the rails 15 feet out. Turning for home, Optimizer pushed past Excaper and drew clear in deep stretch to score by 4 1/4l engths.

His final time of 1:47.27 broke the course record of 1:47.32 set by Touched by Madness in 2005.

“He broke alertly and he chose to lay up there close,” said Court, who was riding Optimizer for the first time since the colt finished 11th in the Kentucky Derby.  “He laid up there effortlessly."

Escaper, a Woodbine-based colt whose previous stakes experience includes seconds in the Grade 3 Summer and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, easily was second best. Two Months Rent won a photo for third at 35-1 by a head over 27-1 shot Star Channel. Lucky Chappy finished seventh as the 5-2 favorite.

Court, who has ridden more than 30,000 races in his career, was riding for only the third time at Delaware and his first over the track’s grass course. Court had been third in this year’s Delaware Oaks aboard Amie’s Dini and fifth in the 2009 Delaware Handicap on Temple Street.

Opimizer, a son of English Channel owned by Bluegrass Hall, gave Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas his first stakes win at Delaware since 1997.