06/17/2017 10:45PM

Kasaqui storms to victory in Wise Dan Stakes

Coady Photography
Kasaqui paid $8.40 in winning the Wise Dan Stakes on Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - After finishing a close second in the Wise Dan Stakes last year, Kasaqui left no doubt this time, storming down the stretch to win the Grade 2, $200,000 race Saturday night under the lights at Churchill Downs.

After missing by just three-quarters of a length to Pleuven in the 2016 Wise Dan, Kasaqui won the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap that July for trainer Ignacio Correas. The Argentinian-born son of Lasting Approval went winless in six starts following that effort - although that skid did include three graded stakes placings, most notably a second by a neck to Mondialiste in the Grade 1 Arlington Million.

Kasaqui, now 7, came into ther 2017 Wise Dan off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard.

When the gates opened Saturday night, multiple graded stakes winner Chocolate Ride was sent smartly away and led the field through honest opening fractions of 23.81 and 47.23. Challengers began to close in through six furlongs in 1:10.87, but the leader continued on well into the lane with a clear advantage.

Meanwhile, jockey James Graham was swinging Kasaqui ($8.40), who had settled in sixth through the first half, wide, and the big gray made a sweeping move to inhale Chocolate Ride's advantage. He struck the front near the furlong marker and powered home to win by 2 3/4 lengths going away.

"He picked up a sprint," Graham said. "When I picked him up and got him moving, it never looked like he was gonna stop. His gallop out was good and strong."

The final time for the 1 1/16 miles on turf rated firm was 1:40.26.

Chocolate Ride easily held sway in second by 1 1/4 lengths. Conquest Panthera nipped Bondurant by a head for third. Defending winner Pleuven, sent away as the favorite, raced inside and was never a threat, checking in sixth.

“You know, he just wasn’t good enough today,” jockey Corey Lanerie said. “He was in a good spot, I thought. And when I asked him to go, he wasn’t fast enough.”