Aireofdistinction battled for the lead midway around the far turn and kicked clear in the final 100 yards to beat late-running Interest Free by 2 ½ lengths in Saturday’s sixth running of the $111,500 Open Mind, a six-furlong listed stakes race for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs.
Aireofdistinction stopped the teletimer in 1:10.54 over a fast main track to give owner Gillian Campbell, trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. their second straight Open Mind triumph. They teamed to win the event last year with Vuitton, who also was co-owned by Ralph and Shelly Stayer and Andrew Pajak.
Flower Spell, the 3-2 favorite, broke fastest from the gate in the field of six distaffers with Aireofdistinction in close pursuit through a first quarter mile in :22.56. The winner and a looming Janis’s Joy drew even with the leader on the turn and there was a three-way battle for the lead at the top of the stretch after a half-mile in :46.05.
Aireofdistinction battled between horses down the stretch, put away a fading Flower Spell and then kicked clear of Janis’s Joy, who couldn’t keep up with the winner. Interest Free rallied from last to get second by three-quarters of a length over Janis’s Joy.
"She always runs great,” Santana said of the winner. “I know this filly; she’s a nice filly and she always tries hard.”
Aireofdistinction, sent to post at odds of 5-2, returned $7, $4 and $3.40. Interest Free, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., paid $4 and $2.80. Janis’s Joy, under Leandro Goncavles, returned $4.40.
Flower Spell, Rusticana and Afternoon Tango completed the order of finish. Defending champ Vuitton was scratched.
Aireofdistinction, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Songandaprayer out of the Storm Cat mare Clear Distinction, earned $68,439 for the win. This was her second career stakes triumph. The 4-year-old filly also prevailed in the $100,000 Spring Fever this winter at Oaklawn Park.
Overall, Aireofdistinction has won five of her 14 starts with one second and four thirds. Her career earnings now stand at $258,911.
Saturday’s race saluted the late Eugene Klein’s Hall of Fame filly Open Mind, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained winner of the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Churchill Downs who returned to the Louisville track the following spring to win the Kentucky Oaks. The New Jersey-bred filly was an Eclipse Award champion at ages two and three. A winner of 12 races and $1,844,372 in 19 starts, the daughter of Deputy Minister was enshrined in Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
OPEN MIND QUOTES
RICARDO SANTANA JR., jockey of AIREOFDISTINCTION (winner) – “She always runs great. I know this filly; she’s a nice filly and she always tries hard. Mr. (Steve) Asmussen didn’t even give me any directions. He knew she had the speed. She ran her race, and she ran it well.”
DARREN FLEMING, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen of AIREOFDISTINCTION (winner) – “She ran very well. She was sharp today and laid a little closer and finished up nice. She pretty much runs her own kind of race every time; she’s not always in the same spot.”
NEIL HOWARD, trainer of INTEREST FREE (runner-up) – “She ran very well. She’s one of those that’s in-the-middle – she needs seven-eighths to a mile, but she ran well.”
Q: You added blinkers today, but she rallied from well back. Did you expect her to show a little more speed with the equipment change? “We didn’t think it would get her too amped-up. We just wanted her to keep from dropping out the back so far. We had one piece of the combination, but we needed to go a little further. But I thought she ran great.”
BRIAN HERNANDEZ JR., jockey on INTEREST FREE (runner-up) – “She really came running. She ran big. All the way around there we thought we were on the best horse and she made her big run. They just got away from her a little bit and she ran out of ground.
Q: Neil added blinkers for Interest Free today. Did you expect her to be any closer in the early going? “It improved her a little bit, I think. It made her closing run a little harder. It (the addition of blinkers) didn’t hurt her any, and I think it helped her a little.”