Canadian-based Simmard took the lead at the head of the stretch and turned back a late charge by Joinem to win the 75th running of the Grade III, $115,200 Louisville Handicap by 1 ¼ lengths on Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs.
Simmard’s final time of 2:27.16 for the 1 ½ miles over a firm Matt Winn Turf Course was a stakes record, which eclipsed Drilling for Oil’s mark of 2:28.35 in 2007 – the first year the storied race was carded over the distance and surface.
Simmard, the 120-pound starting high weight in the field of eight older horses, was forwardly placed in the early stages of the turf marathon and relaxed just behind pacesetter Depeche Chat, who was followed by Harrods Creek. After fractions of :25.16, :50.05, 1:14.74 and 1:38.91, jockey Gabriel Saez asked Simmard to draw even with Harrods Creek with three furlongs to run. From the outside, Simmard grabbed the lead at the top of the stretch and cut clear of that rival in the final 200 yards. Joinem, ridden by Calvin Borel, wheeled out six-wide entering the stretch and rallied from last to get second but could not catch the winner. Brazilian-bred Tahoe Lake, the 2-1 favorite under Manny Cruz, finished third, a half-length behind the runner-up.
Simmard paid $9.40, $4.40 and $2.60 as the 7-2 second betting choice. Joinem returned $5 and $2.60. Tahoe Lake paid $2.40. Harrods Creek, Cease, Rescue Squad, Depeche Chat and Derby Kitten completed the order of finish.
The Louisville Handicap was Simmard’s second graded stakes triumph of the year. In February, he defeated Newsdad by a nose to prevail in the Grade II, $150,000 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream Park. Overall, it was his seventh victory in 31 career starts.
Saez rode the winner for accomplished trainer Roger Attfield, who co-owns the 7-year-old gelding with longtime client Bill Werner of Rapid City, Ill. Attfield, who’ll be enshrined in the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame on Aug. 10, notched his third Churchill Downs stakes win and first since Perfect Shirl upset last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
Saez, in the midst of his first full season riding in Kentucky, scored his second local stakes win beneath the Twin Spires. His first came aboard Proud Spell in the 2008 Kentucky Oaks.
“We broke a little slowly, but I had him placed forwardly,” Saez said. “After we went a mile we started to pick it up a little bit. Every time I asked him he responded and at the end we were ahead by a length. I got a perfect trip. It couldn’t have gone any better than that.”
Simmard was bred in Kentucky by Haras Santa Maria de Araras S.A. and is a son of Dixieland Band out of the Spectacular Bid mare Dibs. The Louisville Handicap first-place check of $69,282 boosted his career earnings to $606,673.
“(Simmard) has really clicked this year and Gabriel rode him perfectly,” said Suzy Lorimer, the Attfield assistant who traveled with the horse on a van ride from Toronto on Thursday morning. “It was great. He’ll ship back home (to Woodbine) tonight.”
Racing at Churchill Downs continues Sunday with a 10-race program that begins at 12:45 p.m. ET. There’s a three-day Pick 6 carryover of $14,334 on Races 5-10 and a two-day Super Hi-5 carryover of $23,658 for the final race.
LOUISVILLE HANDICAP QUOTES
Gabriel Saez, jockey of Simmard, winner: “We broke a little slowly, but I had him placed forwardly. After we went a mile we started to pick it up a little bit. Every time I asked him he responded and at the end we were ahead by a length. I got a perfect trip. It couldn’t have gone any better than that.”
Suzy Lorimer, assistant to Roger Attfield, trainer of Simmard, winner: “(Simmard) has really clicked this year and Gabriel rode him perfectly. It was great. He’ll ship back home (to Woodbine) tonight.”
Calvin Borel, jockey on Joinem, second: “He came running. I gave him a little bit too much to do. It was the first time I rode him and he kind of switched leads back-and-forth a little bit, but apparently he does that all the time. I learned something new about him. But I like him. He’s a nice horse and I hope I get the opportunity to ride him back again. I’ll know him a little bit more.”
Manny Cruz, jockey of 2-1 favorite Tahoe Lake-BRZ, third: “I had to wait a couple of steps because (Depeche Chat) stopped. Then I put him behind (Harrods Creek) and followed him, and we went from there. He closed, but he just didn’t give me the kick he usually does. The fractions at the beginning of the race were no help at all.”
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: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 4, 2013, and its 2012 Spring Meet is scheduled for April 28-July 1. The track has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record eight times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.
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