10/08/2017 6:08PM

Flameaway gets nose win in Bourbon Stakes

Coady Photography
Flameaway, foreground, crosses the finish a nose ahead of Tigers Rule and Tap Daddy to win the Bourbon Stakes on Sunday.

No turf, no problem for Flameaway. The colt scored the second off-the-turf stakes victory of his short career, nosing out Tigers Rule and Tap Daddy with three noses on the line in the $250,000 Bourbon Stakes on a rainy Sunday afternoon at Keeneland.

Flameaway has now won three of four career starts, also taking the Skidmore Stakes that was rained off the turf in August at Saratoga. The colt, who continues a red-hot start to the Keeneland meet for trainer Mark Casse and jockey Julien Leparoux, came into the Bourbon off his only loss, finishing sixth in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes on a fast dirt track at Churchill Downs.

"I've been wanting to run him on the grass, so I was a little disappointed by that," Casse said. "But you know what, he's been getting better and better, and he's a big, strong horse. The one time we ran him on the dirt, he didn't take the kickback too well, so I told Julien to use some of his speed."

After rain pelted the Lexington area the previous night and throughout the day Sunday, the Bourbon was moved off the turf and contested on a sloppy, sealed main track.

The race, originally a Grade 3, was automatically downgraded to listed status when it changed surfaces, per American Graded Stakes Committee rules.

The Committee will review the race in the coming days and decide whether or not to reinstate the grade.

The Bourbon's status as a 'Win and You're In' race for the Breeders' Cup, offering a fees-paid berth into the Juvenile Turf, was also initially rescinded with the surface switch. However, Breeders' Cup executive Craig Fravel, on site at Keeneland, confirmed that, following a review, the Breeders' Cup would restore the race's status, giving Flameaway an automatic berth into the race at Del Mar. Fravel cited the fact that the field held together following the surface switch - Machtree was the only scratch, withdrawing in the morning prior to the announcement. 

Tigers Rule and Tap Daddy, breaking from posts 1 and 3, respectively, were away fastest from the gate and raced heads apart through the opening six furlongs. Meanwhile, Leparoux angled Flameaway, drawn in post 12, in to save some ground. The eventual winners raced off the leaders' flanks, in third and clear on the outside, as the leading two got the opening quarter in 23.35 seconds, but then slowed to 48.46 seconds for the half and 1:13.93 for the six furlongs as they raced into the wind down the backstretch.

Flameaway began to inch his way up alongside the leaders around the far turn, but Tigers Rule refused to give way, and Tap Daddy also kept slugging it out between horses. With the three making contact late, they hit the line with Flameaway, on the outside, a nose in front of Tigers Rule, who was a nose ahead of Tap Daddy between horses. Admirality Pier, rallying up the open rail, was another half-length back in fourth. The final time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:45.77.

"We had a good trip today," Leparoux said. "He left there very nicely, and traveled very nice. The other two horses, they had good fight."

Florent Geroux on Tap Daddy, who had been sent away as the favorite, claimed foul against the top two finishers for interference in the stretch. After a review, the stewards disqualified Tigers Rule to third, elevating Tap Daddy to second.

"I think the horse inside came out on the one in the middle, and there was kind of a chain reaction," Leparoux said.