Amerman Racing Stables' Coffee Clique squeezed through an opening along the hedge to surge past longshot Dame Marie to score a half-length victory in the 29th running of the $336,900 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (Grade II) Presented by Longines for fillies and mares, the first of six graded stakes on Kentucky Derby Day.
Trained by Brian Lynch and ridden by Javier Castellano, Coffee Clique covered the mile on a firm Matt Winn Turf Course in 1:34.66.
Coffee Clique is a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Medaglia d'Oro out of the Royal Academy mare Miss Chapin. The victory was worth $200,523 and boosted her earnings to $17,488 with a record of 10-5-1-1.
I'm Already Sexy opened a clear advantage and led the field of nine through fractions of :24.00, :46.98 and 1:10.48. At the head of the stretch, Dame Marie and Effie Trinket swept past I'm Already Sexy with Coffee Clique on the move to their inside.
Dame Marie was in command at midstretch but Castellano and Coffee Clique surged by in the final 100 yards to get the victory.
Coffee Clique returned $13.80, $8.80 and $5.80. Dame Marie, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., paid $31.60 and $13.40 with Effie Trinket finishing 1 3/4 lengths back in third under Luis Saez and paying $5.40 to show.
Finishing fourth a neck back was Ready Signal, who was followed in order by favored Centre Court, I'm Already Sexy, Miz Ida, Tapicat and Absolute Crackers (IRE).
CHURCHILL DISTAFF TURF QUOTES
Javier Castellano, rider of Coffee Clique (winner) – "I saw the way two or three horses have the speed in the race. I wanted to just stay off the pace a little bit. My horse is very brave. Turning for home, she split horses and kept on the rail. I saved all the ground. The most important thing on the grass is to save some ground and I think it paid off today."
Brian Lynch, trainer of Coffee Clique (winner) – "I thought she settled lovely. It was a good decision on the first turn to take back a bit. He (Jockey Javier Castellano) said she was game down on the inside the last part of it and he didn't really have to get after her. He could feel she was getting into a rhythm. We'll be taking her up to Canada this summer for the grass program up there. This spring she has really come to herself."
Irad Ortiz Jr., rider of Dame Marie (second) – "I had a very good trip today. I followed the instructions of the trainer (Eddie Kenneally) so I would not be too far from the lead. My filly just pulled me to the front and I could not stop her. I was happy with her effort and she ran pretty good."
Luis Saez, rider of Effie Trinket (third) – "She had a good trip. She was clear on the outside. At the three-eighths pole I thought she had a chance to win, but the other horses came running past her. She ran a good race."
Julien Leparoux, rider of favored Centre Court (fifth) -- "She missed a little bit at the start. It's not really an excuse. She always did get out, but around the turn today, she was just getting out pretty bad, both turns, and I kept losing ground because of that. I lost two or three lengths each turn and it costs us."
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 140th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on May 3, 2014. The 2014 Spring Meet at Churchill Downs is scheduled for April 26-June 29. 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.