Updated on 09/17/2011 10:50AM

Ipi Tombe wins by an easy half-length

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Ipi Tombe ($2.80) wins the Grade 3, $164,400 Locust Grove Handicap by a half-length at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Without ever feeling the whip of an ultra-confident Pat Day, the star African import Ipi Tombe made a successful United States debut Saturday at Churchill Downs by winning the Grade 3, $164,400 by a half-length margin that conceals the extent of her superiority.

"Nice and cozy," co-owner Barry Irwin said minutes after Ipi Tombe raced to the 12th victory of her 14-race career. "Her next race is a handicap, too."

Ipi Tombe, whose global reputation led to her being the 2-5 favorite in a field of five fillies and mares, broke a step slowly in the 1 1/8-mile Locust Grove, which was run over a firm turf. As Day deftly guided her inside of and between rivals, Ipi Tombe steadily closed ground on front-runner Kiss the Devil before easing to the lead approaching the sixteenth pole. Day then kept Ipi Tombe under a strong hold as the Zimbabwe-bred mare finished in 1:47.70. She returned $2.80 to win.

Quick Tip finished another half-length back in third, followed by San Dare and Voodoo Lady. Honorable Cat was an early scratch.

Lonnie Meche, rider of Kiss the Devil, rolled his eyes when asked about how easily Ipi Tombe had glided past his mount. "She ran by me well within herself," he said.

Ipi Tombe, who spotted her Locust Grove rivals six to 11 pounds, will race next in the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana Handicap at Saratoga July 26. The Diana will be followed by either the Arlington Million or Beverly D., both set for Aug. 16 at Arlington Park.

Ipi Tombe is owned in partnership by her original owners, Sunmark Partners of Zimbabwe, along with WinStar Farm and Team Valor, the prominent syndicate that Irwin heads. WinStar owns 50 percent, with the other two partners having 25 percent.

Ipi Tombe defeated males in her previous start, the $2 million Dubai Duty Free March 29, and was sent soon thereafter to trainer Elliott Walden at Churchill. A 5-year-old by the Mr. Prospector sire Manshood, she now has earned $1,416,273.

* Day won three other races on the Saturday card, allowing him to pull within five wins of Cornelio Velasquez atop the jockey standings with six days left at the 52-day meet. Velasquez was away Saturday to ride runner-up Remind in the Arlington Classic. One of Day's winners was Danthebluegrassman ($3), who captured a $64,550 allowance by a measured neck.