04/13/2013 5:00PM

Keeneland: Centre Court delivers as favorite in Grade 1 Jenny Wiley

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Coady Photography/Keeneland
Centre Court and jockey Julien Leparoux won the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley by two lengths Saturday at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – For much of Saturday’s $300,000, Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland, the race appeared to be a virtual repeat of last year’s running. Daisy Devine, last year’s front-running winner, was again cruising on the lead, poised to lead throughout.

Then Centre Court came after her, and in a matter of seconds, the 4 1/2-length lead that Daisy Devine held after three-quarters of a mile began to quickly evaporate. Centre Court reeled in Daisy Devine in early stretch and drew clear in the final furlong to notch a two-length victory, with Samitar another 1 3/4 lengths behind Daisy Devine in third.

“Coming to the quarter pole, I knew I was running faster and knew I was gonna catch her,” winning jockey Julien Leparoux said of Daisy Devine.

It further helped that Centre Court was well positioned, stalking the pace in third, without traffic troubles and racing in the clear.

Although Daisy Devine was unchallenged and in command early, she didn’t get away with the soft fractions she was able to set last year, when she went a half-mile in 50.78 seconds and three-quarters in 1:15.35. On a firm course Saturday, she went a much more moderate tempo of 48.08 and 1:12.18 in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Centre Court, one of last year’s top 3-year-old fillies, recorded her second straight graded stakes victory Saturday, having won the Grade 2 Honey Fox last month in her first start at age 4. She raced 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.73 and paid $5.40 as the favorite in the field of nine for the Jenny Wiley.

“She was already good, but she got a lot better this year,” Leparoux said. “We’re looking forward to a great year with her.”

Rusty Arnold, who trains Centre Court for owner-breeder G. Watts Humphrey Jr., ruled out running her back in the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard May 4, disliking the relatively short timing.

He suggested her next race could come in June at Belmont Park. “The main goal through the summer is either the Beverly D. or the Diana,” he said.