10/04/2014 4:06PM

Leigh Court scores under smart ride in TCA Stakes

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Leigh Court, under a smart ride from jockey Gary Boulanger, scores Saturday in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Leigh Court’s second trip to Keeneland, this time for the Grade 2, $200,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes on Saturday, was far more profitable than the first.

When last seen in Kentucky, the filly finished fourth in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on turf, ending her three-race win streak in stakes as well as her season. Leigh Court returned to the races in August to win the Grade 3 Seaway Stakes at her Woodbine base. She remained perfect on the year by pouncing on the favorites in the stretch and drawing away to win the Thoroughbred Club of America.

The Thoroughbred Club of America was a Win and You’re In qualifying event for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita, awarding Leigh Court, who runs as a homebred for Eugene Melnyk, a fees-paid berth in the starting gate. In addition to offering a starting position, the race has proved a formative prep. In the seven prior runnings of the Filly and Mare Sprint, the winner has emerged from the Thoroughbred Club of America five times, with Informed Decision (2009), Dubai Majesty (2010), and Groupie Doll (2012) winning both races in the same year.

“Mr. Melnyk was hoping for a Breeders’ Cup horse, and we thought the best division for [Leigh Court] would be the Filly and Mare Sprint,” trainer Josie Carroll said. “We thought we’d put her back on the dirt, and we needed to do that before we went out there.”

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Leigh Court had made two prior starts on dirt, breaking her maiden on the surface last year.

The second choice R Free Roll established the early pace in the Thoroughbred Club of America, with the favored Stonetastic just off her hip through brisk splits of 21.84 seconds and 44.51. Leigh Court, with a well-timed ride under Gary Boulanger, drew within striking distance around the far turn and loomed the danger entering the stretch. The filly made the lead near the eighth pole and drew clear late to win by three lengths.

Leigh Court ($13.60) stopped the clock in 1:09.46 for six furlongs on Keeneland’s new dirt track, which was rated fast. The time just missed the track mark of 1:09 established by Work All Week in the Grade 3 Phoenix Stakes on opening day.

Southern Honey collared Stonetastic late to finish second.

With prominent owner and breeder Melnyk in the process of dispersing his Thoroughbred holdings, Leigh Court is cataloged to sell as part of a star-studded lineup at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall selected mixed sale Nov. 3, two days after the Breeders’ Cup.

“I’ve been very, very fortunate to train for Mr. Melnyk the last few years,” Carroll said. “He’s sent me some very nice horses. [He has] passion for the game. I think he loves the sport, he enjoys the sport, and he’s invested heavily in the sport.”