03/04/2017 10:09PM

It's Your Nickel much the best in John Battaglia


Jockey James Graham took off riding Saturday afternoon at Fair Grounds to be at Turfway Park on Saturday evening for the mount on It's Your Nickel in the $100,000 John Battaglia Stakes. Suffice to say, it was a good choice.

It’s Your Nickel romped to a 6 1/2-length victory in the Battaglia, and in doing so, became the presumptive favorite for the Grade 3, $500,000 Spiral at Turfway on March 25.

It’s Your Nickel - a versatile 3-year-old who has won on dirt, turf,  and now a synthetic track – raced farther off the pace than usual in the Battaglia after breaking a tad slowly. He settled in ninth in the 11-horse field, as Montu set splits of 23.78 seconds and 47.66 under pressure from Hunka Burning Love in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Then the winner began to move, but so, too, did eventual runner-up En Hanse, who surged to the lead with three-quarters of a mile in 1:11.91. But En Hanse would hold the lead for only a short while, as It’s Your Nickel, knifing through traffic, caught him in early stretch and overpowered him in the lane. He completed 1 1/16 miles in 1: 44.66, paying $6.80 as the favorite.

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En Hanse appeared fatigued late but was never in danger of being caught for second, finishing 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Star Empire, who grabbed the show in blanket finish for that position.

It’s Your Nickel might not have even landed in the Battaglia field if he had drawn a better post in last Saturday’s Risen Star at Fair Grounds. But after he drew post 13 for that race – a distinct disadvantage with a short run to the first of two turns in 1 1/16-mile race – trainer Ken McPeek opted to scratch him, and he was rerouted to the Battaglia.

It’s Your Nickel capped a noteworthy Saturday for 3-year-old progeny of his sire, Dialed In, whose son Gunnevera won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth earlier in the afternoon. The Battaglia winner, purchased $100,000 at Fasig-Tipton last summer, is owned by Harold Lerner LLC, AWC Stables, Scott Akman, and Nehoc Stables.