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Patience pays for Stream Cat in Crown Royal
Julien Leparoux still is an apprentice jockey, which means he hasn't watched as many races as some of the grizzled veteran riders on this circuit. But as the field for Friday's $114,300 Crown Royal American Turf turned down the Churchill Downs backstretch, Leparoux could see all five of his rivals from his seat aboard Stream Cat, and he knew he was watching something good. Gaelic Storm had taken the lead out of the gate, with favored Go Between and Giant Basil stalking a moderate pace, but coming off the first turn, there was a headstrong Tahoe Warrior surging up three wide, turning a slow pace quicker, and changing the entire shape of the race.
"Everybody wanted the lead," said the French-born Leparoux. "I just sat on him and waited."
When the time was right, Leparoux cut Stream Cat loose, and with a big stretch surge he wore down Go Between to win the Crown Royal by a neck. It was the second turf-stakes victory of the day for Leparoux and his most important client, trainer Patrick Biancone. Earlier, the pair won the Aegon Turf Sprint with Man of Illusion.
Fourth choice at odds of 4-1, Stream Cat paid $10.20 to win and ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.27 on a firm turf course. Gaelic Storm finished a well-beaten third.
Stream Cat was making his first start since he finished eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and subsequently had surgery to remove a bone chip in his right knee. This also marked Stream Cat's first grass race since his second career start last September at Saratoga. While decent on dirt, he appears much better on turf, and that is where he'll stay this summer. Biancone said he planned to point Stream Cat to the two $1 million 3-year-old grass races at Colonial Downs, the first of which is the Colonial Turf Cup on June 24, the second the July 15 Virginia Derby.
Alysheba: Gouldings Green outduels Wild Desert
Gouldings Green withstood a furious stretch battle with Wild Desert to post a head victory in Friday's $100,000 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Gouldings Green raced within easy striking distance of the lead under regular rider Corey Lanerie in the 1 1/16-mile Alysheba. He swung three wide to engage Wild Desert entering the stretch and proved narrowly best after a prolonged drive. It was another 4 1/2 lengths back to Andromeda's Hero, who finished third. Wild Desert, the 2005 Queen's Plate winner, ran a big race in defeat returning from a 9 1/2-month hiatus.
Gouldings Green was making his third start on the comeback trail for trainer Anthony Reinstedler. Owned by the Melnyk Racing Stables Inc., Gouldings Green paid $5 as the favorite in a field reduced to eight starters following the scratches of Purim and Thunder Mission. The winning time was 1:42.37 over a fast track.
"I felt that this horse was really doing well," said Reinstedler. "He was graded stakes placed but had never won a stakes, and Corey gave him a fabulous ride. He rode him with a lot of confidence, put him in the race in a striking position, and had enough left to put the other horse away."
Reinstedler said he has no plans for Gouldings Green's next start.
- Mike Welsch
Turf Sprint: Man of Illusion by a head
A better start led to a better finish for Man of Illusion in Friday's Grade 3, $116,000 Aegon Turf Sprint Handicap at Churchill Downs.
After breaking slowly and encountering tons of trouble when third in the Shakertown at Keeneland last month, Man of Illusion broke much better under Julien Leparoux, stalked a hot pace, and was able to wear down a game Justice for Auston by a head. It was three-quarters of a length back to Atticus Kristy in third.
"He broke real well from the gate. That changed everything," said Leparoux, who was also aboard for the Shakertown. "I was in the race pretty early today, and in this race I had no problems, and he's a good horse."
A 5-year-old Australian-bred, Man of Illusion was making his North American debut in the Shakertown and wasn't used to having an assistant starter in the gate with him. He broke slowly and was caught behind a couple of tiring speed horses. He still rallied to finish third, beaten two lengths.
Trainer Patrick Biancone worked with Man of Illusion in the gate in between races, and it paid off.
Man of Illusion was fourth entering the far turn, as Lion Andthe Lamb and Western Kind set a swift up pace up front. Justice for Auston, a 38-1 shot trained by Dale Romans, stalked those two and took the lead inside the sixteenth pole before Man of Illusion was able to wear him down in the final strides. Man of Illusion covered five furlongs in 56.28 seconds and returned $6.80 as the favorite.
"We were planning to break well today, because the last time he ran he was not as sharp as today because it was a comeback race and I didn't know him well," Biancone said. "Now he's acclimatized to American style [racing].
"Sometimes you need to lose a race to win the next one, and we're very happy he won today."
- David Grening
Edgewood: Magnificent Song rallies
Todd Pletcher isn't sure that blinkers have made the difference with Magnificent Song, but he isn't about to mess with success. On Friday, Magnificent Song won her second straight race since adding blinkers when she captured the $114,900 Edgewood Stakes for 3-year-old turf fillies at Churchill Downs.
Magnificent Song was on the lead in her previous start at Keeneland and kicked clear to handily beat that first-level allowance field. In the Edgewood, jockey Garrett Gomez was able to get her to settle, and she responded by rallying to post a half-length victory over Fiery Dancer. May Night was another three-quarters of a length back in third, with 2-1 favorite Kitty Hawk fourth in the field of 10.
"I just had to cover her up and find a spot," Gomez said.
Magnificent Song ($14) completed 1 1/16 miles on a firm turf course in 1:42.15. She gave Pletcher and Gomez their third win in the first five races on Friday's card.
"Last time she was on the lead at Keeneland, which isn't where we wanted to be," Pletcher said. "Today we got her back off the pace a little. She was able to sit off the pace and then make her run. She's improving."
Beau Dare went for the early lead and set fractions of 23.81 seconds for a quarter-mile, 47.91 for a half-mile, and 1:11.88 for the first six furlongs. Fiery Dancer moved up to challenge heading into the far turn and took the lead entering the stretch, but she could not hold off the late charge of Magnificent Song. Kitty Hawk, meanwhile, was fanned six paths wide heading into the lane and could not make a significant impact late.
Magnificent Song, a daughter of Unbridled's Song, has now won 3 times in 6 starts for the Larry and Diane Vaughn's L and D Farm, which purchased Magnificent Song as a yearling for $625,000.
- Jay Privman