Benefiting from a ground-saving ride by John Velazquez, Zabeel Racing International’s Game Face held off Keep the Peace by a neck in the 53rd running of the $168,450 La Troienne Stakes (Grade III) for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs on Saturday afternoon.
The victory was the second stakes score on the Kentucky Derby Day card for Velazquez, who had piloted Elite Squadron to a front-running score in the Churchill Downs (GII) earlier on the card.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Game Face was making her first start since running second to Bsharpsonata in the Grade II Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park on March 2.
Secret Gypsy, under Kent Desormeaux, and Keep the Peace, ridden by Edgar Prado, dueled on the front end through early fractions of :22.61 and :44.96. Leaving the backstretch, Velazquez moved past longshot Color Me Up and angled to the rail.
When the leaders swung wide at the head of the stretch, Game Face had a clear path up the rail and drew on even terms at the eighth pole with Keep the Peace, who had disposed of Secret Gypsy. Game Face moved to the front at the sixteenth pole and outdueled Keep the Peace to the wire, finishing the 7 ½ furlongs on a “fast” track in 1:28.44.
The victory was worth $102,350 and raised Game Face’s career bankroll to $238,350 with a record of 6-3-2-1. Game Face is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Menifee out of the Gone West mare Galleon of Gold.
As the favorite in the field of seven, Game Face returned mutuels of $5.60, $3.20 and $2.60. Keep the Peace, returned $4.40 and $3.40, while Tiz to Dream, ridden by Javier Castellano, finished a nose ahead of Alina and paid $4.20 to show.
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 3, 2008. The track’s 2008 Spring Meet runs from April 26 through July 6. Churchill Downs has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record six times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.
STAKES QUOTES: THE LA TROIENNE
John Velazquez (winning jockey, Elite Squadron) – “It’s a fast track today and he’s a fast horse. He was doing it comfortably. I learned a lot from last time (when second in the Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland). I knew I needed to save some for the end. I waited until they came at me at the quarter pole and he had plenty.”
James Baker (winning trainer, Elite Squadron) – “This horse has lots of speed and it’s obvious speed is holding today. I just told Johnny, ‘Ride your race and see how it breaks and nurse him along.’ He did a wonderful job with him. He loves the track – horses for courses. I was a little worried when I saw :43 for the half. I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ I was ready to cry I’m so happy.
“I think we’ll run in the Aristides (Grade III at Churchill Downs on May 31), I’d have to say.”
Shaun Bridgmohan (jockey, Noonmark, 2nd) – “I had a good trip. He settled nice for me. The winner ran a real nice race today. A ton of speed. I expected it to come back a little bit after going so fast for the distance, but my horse ran a very credible race and he ran hard all the way to the wire.”
Steve Asmussen (trainer, Noonmark, 2nd) – “The winner went wire to wire. That’s a concern for later today. The racetrack’s lightning tight. The question will be if you can reel ‘em (the frontrunners) in.”
Kent Desormeaux (jockey, Hewitts, 3rd) – “He slipped leaving the starting gate and that kinda lost a little position there. But he put me right back in the race and I was enjoying a catbird ride, that perfect stalking position. The winner ran awesome so I was happy with my horse’s effort.”