07/25/2012 6:49PM

Saratoga: Centre Court takes Lake George by a neck

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Barbara D. Livingston
Centre Court, with Julien Leparoux riding, wins the Lake George.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Centre Court lacks size, but she is steadily accumulating stature in the 3-year-old filly turf division.

Overcoming a somewhat difficult trip, Centre Court emerged from between horses in midstretch, collared Medolina inside the sixteenth pole, and then outsprinted several rivals to the wire to win Wednesday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Lake George Stakes by a neck at Saratoga.

Better Lucky finished second by a head over European import Samitar, who was a head in front of the favorite Stephanie’s Kitten. Medolina, Somali Lemonade, Dancing Solo and Elusive Rumour completed the order of finish.
It was the third consecutive win for Centre Court, a daughter of Smart Strike bred and owned by G. Watts Humphrey and trained by Rusty Arnold.

It was also the third win on the card for jockey Julien Leparoux, who had entered the day 1 for 20 at this meet.

“It’s always good in Saratoga to win one, but three is a big day,” Leparoux said.

Leparoux had Centre Court along the inside but she was bumped by Samitar entering the clubhouse turn. Centre Court was about seven lengths off the pace after the opening quarter and then was sixth, 11 lengths back after a half-mile run by Elusive Rumour in 47.13 seconds.

“He wanted her back more than I did,” Arnold said. “I was happy being third around the turn, but he wanted her back a little bit more. Her best race was further back but it was a mile and an eighth and it was against maidens, and they’re a little easier to run by.”

Approaching the top of the stretch, Samitar and Better Lucky ranged up outside the two pacesetters while Leparoux had Centre Court behind them in fifth, awaiting running room.

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That room appeared at the three-sixteenths pole, and Leparoux got her through a hole and was able persevere Centre Court to the wire in a blanket finish.

Centre Court covered the 1 1/16 miles over a firm Mellon Turf course in 1:41.71 and returned $7.50 as the second choice.

“We took some bumps a little bit - she’s small but she took them and fought,” Leparoux said.

Arnold said Centre Court would be pointed to the Grade 2, $200,000 Lake Placid her on Aug. 19.

Stephanie’s Kitten was last under John Velazquez through the first six furlongs, but in trying to make a late rally she had a horse come out in front of her nearing the eighth pole, costing her any chance to win.

“I thought we had a good trip all the way to the eighth pole,” said Velazquez, who went 0 for 2 in his first day back riding since June 16. “I made the decision to try to split horses and the horse in front of me came out. I ended up behind heels and had to steady and go back inside, and we lost the race right there.”