04/08/2011 5:02PM

Keeneland: Air Support takes Transylvania by a nose

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Keeneland/Coady Photography
Air Support, with Rajiv Maragh up, wins the Transylvania.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Air Support led for only one jump when Keeneland opened its 15-day meet Friday with the 1 1/16-mile Transylvania Stakes - but it was the one that counted.

With Rajiv Maragh urging him down the center of the turf course, Air Support was up to nail the race-long pacesetter, Great Mills, to capture the Grade 3, $100,000 Transylvania by a nose. He returned $23.20 to win.

"I was hoping I won, and I felt like I got there in time," said Maragh. "My horse settled pretty well, and I thought they were going pretty fast up front, so I thought maybe I'd have a chance to catch them."

Adirondack Summer also rallied late to finish third, just another neck back, while Pluck, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner who was the 8-5 favorite, trailed much of the way before finishing a dull seventh. Stormy Rush was an early scratch, leaving a field of nine 3-year-olds.

Great Mills, a 6-1 shot ridden by Julien Leparoux, sped off from an early challenge by 96-1 shot Legendary King, turned back Lil Bit O' Fun leaving the eighth pole, then just could not withstand the winner.

Air Support is owned by his breeder, Stuart Janney III, and is trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey. A Smart Strike colt, he won the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes last October on the Belmont Park turf, then ran ninth in the BC Juvenile Turf and had not raced in five months.

"He trained real well this winter down in Florida, and his breeze down there Sunday was good, so I took a look at this," said McGaughey. "I didn't know whether he'd won or not, but I was just happy with the way he ran."

Air Strike finished in 1:41.99 over a firm course for his third win in six career starts.

Victories on the 10-race card were well-spread, with the only doubles being recorded by jockeys Jose Lezcano and Alan Garcia and by trainer Ken McPeek.

An ontrack crowd of 22,747, many of them college students lured by a scholarship raffle, turned out on a warm, occasionally sunny, but mostly cloudy day marked by the occasional light sprinkle.