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Shaniko impressive in Kentucky Cup
FLORENCE, Ky. - Alternately brilliant and disappointing in his 13 previous starts, Shaniko was all of the former and none of the latter recording his first career stakes victory Saturday in the $342,500 at Turfway Park.
Off a terrific last-out victory at Saratoga, Shaniko, under Rafael Bejarano, was sent away the even-money favorite before rolling home a convincing winner over nine rivals in the Grade 2 Classic, the showcase event in the 12th annual Kentucky Cup series.
Ball Four, a 45-1 shot who set the early pace, held second, 4 1/2 lengths behind Shaniko and 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Silver Axe, who was third.
Shaniko, a 4-year-old A.P. Indy colt, returned $4 and ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.74 over the all-weather Polytrack. Todd Pletcher, who did not make the trip from his home base in New York, is the trainer of Shaniko, who now has won 5 of 14 starts. He is owned by Aaron and Marie Jones.
Shaniko always appeared comfortable when chasing the pace in second, several lengths behind Ball Four. After gradually gaining and then drawing abreast of Ball Four, he powerfully pulled away down the stretch.
"I got him comfortable, and I knew I had a lot of horse," said Bejarano. "So I waited to the quarter pole to take off."
"Everything unfolded perfectly," Pletcher said by phone from Belmont Park.
Shaniko, purchased for $550,000 as a yearling, had been drubbed in three previous stakes tries, but those were last year. In four starts at 4, Shaniko had proven far more consistent, and after an 11-length victory in an Aug. 8 allowance at Saratoga, the colt clearly was primed to join the ranks of stakes winners.
The Classic is yet another major victory in Kentucky this year for Pletcher, who earlier won the Lane's End with Flower Alley, the Blue Grass with Bandini, and the Lexington with Coin Silver. As for Bejarano, the Classic was a happy homecoming for a jockey who last year broke most of Turfway's riding records, including his 150-win season at the 2004 winter-spring meet.
Ball Four "relaxed very well," said his jockey, Julien Leparoux. "The plan was to be on the lead. The winner came to us easily."
After Silver Axe, the rest of the order of finish was Salford City, One Nice Cat, Absent Friend, Grand Reward, M B Sea, Billy Allen, and Cat Shaker.
Juvenile: Stream Cat goes from last to first
Stream Cat trailed his eight rivals until the far turn of the 1 1/16-mile , but Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens was not overly concerned.
"I had a lot of faith in his closing ability," Stevens said after Stream Cat passed them all to win the Grade 3, $100,000 Juvenile by 1 3/4 lengths. "He's only 2, so I'm really excited about him."
Rungius, a 29-1 shot who pressed all the pace, gamely held second by a length over Cab, the 8-5 favorite. Catcominatcha was fourth, while Deputy G, the lone graded stakes winner in the field, ran sixth as the 4-1 third choice.
Stream Cat, trained by Patrick Biancone, is owned by a three-way partnership that includes former college and NBA basketball player Bobby Hurley. Biancone said he was uncertain where Stream Cat, who won the With Anticipation Stakes on the Saratoga turf in his last start, will race next.
"Last time he was a turf horse," said Biancone. "This time he was a Polytrack horse. Next time, hopefully, he'll be a dirt horse."
Juvenile Fillies: Beau Dare pulls off wire job
Although Beau Dare led all the way to win her previous start, that was in a two-turn turf race at Arlington. So jockey John McKee was pleasantly surprised when Beau Dare made an easy early lead in the $100,000 KC Juvenile Fillies, outrunning several fillies who had last raced in sprints.
Beau Dare ($18.20) relaxed beautifully for McKee en route to a 6 1/4-length romp in the one-mile race. "We got an easy lead and nobody pressured us," said McKee.
Delicate Dynamite rallied from far back to finish second, three-quarters of a length before Join Effort. Fast Deal, the 6-5 favorite and the lone supplementary nominee in the series, faded to fourth after racing in closest pursuit of Beau Dare most of the way.
Beau Dare, a 2-year-old Military filly owned by Walts David Stable, finished in 1:38.93. Holthus said she might run next in the Oct. 27 Jessamine County Stakes on the Keeneland turf course.
"She's bred to run on the turf, and we ran in this spot because we heard there are a lot of turf horses having success on the Polytrack," said Holthus.
Turfway BC: Miss Fortunate hangs on
Miss Fortunate found her way through a wall of horses entering the stretch and gamely held off a late run from Sheer Luck to win the $175,000 under jockey Larry Melancon.
Miss Fortunate, owned by Lyon Stables and based at Churchill Downs with Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, returned $11 after finishing 1'1/16 miles in 1:44.48. Sheer Luck finished a half-length behind the winner and just another neck ahead of Whoopi Cat in a field of nine fillies and mares. Bohemian Lady, the 8-5 favorite, ran sixth for Pletcher and Bejarano.
The Grade 3 Turfway BC was only the second start since late March for Miss Fortunate, a 5-year-old Deputy Minister mare. It was her seventh victory from 23 career starts.
Sprint: California invader all the way
Estate Collection, a Southern California invader ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, remained unbeaten in three starts when he led for all six furlongs of the Grade 3, $100,000 , the fifth and last race in the Kentucky Cup series at Turfway Park.
Estate Collection returned $5.60 as second choice in a field of seven 3-year-olds. The winning time was 1:09.75 over the all-weather Polytrack surface.
Suarez Racing privately purchased Estate Collection after the Souvenir Copy gelding won his last race, an Aug. 27 Del Mar starter allowance, by five lengths. Doug O'Neill has assumed the training of Estate Collection.
Humor at Last, a 23-1 shot, finished second, three-quarters of a length behind the winner and another 3 1/4 lengths before Going Wild. Vicarage, the slight 9-5 favorite, finished fourth for trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Rafael Bejarano, who earlier won the series highlight, the Kentucky Cup Classic, with favored Shaniko.