04/13/2013 5:38PM

Oaklawn Park: Justin Phillip rallies to win Count Fleet Sprint Handicap

Tom Keyser
Ricardo Santana, the leading rider at Oaklawn, celebrates the first graded stakes win of his career aboard the sprinter Justin Phillip in the Count Fleet.

Early in his career, Justin Phillip struggled to master the intricacies of being a racehorse, but at age 5, he has smoothed out the wrinkles.

Justin Phillip was nothing if not professional in winning the Grade 3, $250,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap on Saturday at Oaklawn Park. The 6-5 favorite, Justin Phillip got a great trip under leading rider Ricardo Santana, who won the first graded stakes of his career.

Racing in midpack as Picko’s Pride on the outside and Gentlemen’s Bet on the inside battled through quick splits of 21.68 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 44.65 for the half, Justin Phillip swung seriously into action at about the quarter pole, ranging up to come within striking distance of Picko’s Pride, who shrugged off Gentlemen’s Bet and made for the wire.

But stride by stride, Justin Phillip cut into the lead, and he pushed past in the final half-furlong to win by three-quarters of a length, stopping the timer in 1:09.63 for six furlongs on a fast track.

Picko’s Pride, a 24-1 shot, probably ran the best race of his 16-start career, finishing second over Gentlemen’s Bet, with Laurie’s Rocket fourth. Apprehender was pulled up before the turn. Justin Phillip, the 119-pound highweight, paid $4.40 to win.

Trained by Steve Asmussen – who was winning his third race on the card – for owner Zayat Stables, Justin Phillip, a son of First Samurai, won for the sixth time in 26 tries while notching his first graded stakes victory since the Woody Stephens in June 2011.