03/03/2012 6:07PM

Turfway: State of Play edges Ill Conceived by head in Battaglia

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Patrick Lang/Lang Photography
State of Play (4), ridden by Victor Lebron, outlasts Ill Conceived and jockey Stewart Elliott in the John Battaglia.

State of Play won a photo over Ill Conceived after the pair hooked up leaving the half-mile pole Saturday in an exciting renewal of the $75,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky.

With Victor Lebron aboard, State of Play edged away down the stretch from Ill Conceived, who led most of the way in slow fractions, but then the two hit the wire together, with State of Play a head in front in finishing the 1 1/16-mile Polytrack race in 1:46.55. Dynamical was another 3 1/2 lengths back in third. Mr. Prankster, the 4-5 favorite, and was never a factor in finishing 7 1/4 lengths farther back in fourth among the five 3-year-olds.

State of Play, a Kentucky-bred colt by War Front, returned $6 as second choice with his third win from five career starts. The Battaglia marked his first start over a synthetic surface after he raced three times on turf as a 2-year-old, then ran seventh on dirt in the Sam F. Davis Stakes in his seasonal debut last month at Tampa Bay Downs.

State of Play is owned by Team Valor International and trained by Graham Motion, the same team that won the Turfway showcase, the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes, last year with Animal Kingdom, who went on to win the Kentucky Derby in his next start. Motion said before the Battaglia that a return in the Spiral on March 24 was highly likely if State of Play ran well Saturday.

Ill Conceived, with Stewart Elliott aboard for John Servis, set fractions of 24.69 seconds and 49.83 before drifting off the rail leaving the half-mile pole, allowing State of Play and Dynamical to rally to his inside. By the quarter pole, after six furlongs in 1:14.69, Dynamical had faded out of it, leaving State of Play and Ill Conceived to battle to the wire.

Mr. Prankster, ridden by John McKee, was favored after winning the Turfway Prevue and WEBN Stakes over the Turfway surface. Although he likely was disadvantaged by the slow pace, the colt had no mishap in failing to threaten.

The Battaglia will be the last stakes at Turfway before Spiral Day. Turfway officials announced Thursday they were cutting purses and much of the remaining stakes schedule at the winter-spring meet.