Ramona Bass’ Courtesan, ridden by Corey Lanerie and trained by Christophe Clement, tracked pacesetter First Romance and ran down that rival late to win Saturday’s first division of the $58,740 Keertana overnight stakes at Churchill Downs.
Courtesan, a 4-year-old Florida-bred daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, beat nine fillies and mares by running 1 3/8 miles in 2:17.11 over a Matt Winn Turf Course that was rated “good” after midday rain.
First Romance, a 23-1 outsider ridden by Francisco Torres, established a clear early lead and clicked off fractions of :25.71, :50.10, 1:39.59 and 2:04.31 with Courtesan, the 3-1 second betting choice, tracking in the clear in second. Courtesan ranged into contention at the head of the stretch, drew even and was a well-measured neck winner.
The victory was worth $32,580 and improved Courtesan’s earnings to $189,797 with a record of 10-3-1-2. At age 2 in 2013, Courtesan won the $100,000 Juvenile Filly Turf, a one-mile turf race at Gulfstream Park restricted to Florida-breds.
Courtesan, who is out of the Boundary mare Lady Discreet, was bred by Ocala Stud, Joseph M. O’Farrell III and John David O’Farrell et al.
Courtesan returned $8.60, $5 and $3.40. First Romance paid $20.40 and $9.60. Maria Maria, the 5-2 favorite ridden by Joe Rocco Jr., finished 1 ¼ lengths back of the runner-up and returned $3.20.
Bitty Kitty, Mari Shika (FR), V V Goodnight, Ketel Twist, Freethinker and Stellaris completed the order of finish. Super Sky was scratched.
In the $57,022 second division of the race three races later, Glen Hill Farm’s 4-year-old filly Ceisteach (IRE) led every step of the way under Channing Hill and turned back late charges by closers Eastern Belle (GB) and 2-1 favorite Walk Close to win by a half-length in 2:16.96.
The Tom Proctor-trained daughter of New Approach (IRE) won for the third time in eight starts and banked to boost her bankroll to $89,670. Unpressured early, she rattled off fractions of :25.15, :49.35, 1:14.35, 1:39.73 and 2:04.25 to lead from flag fall to “that’s all.”
Ceisteach paid $21.20, $8.60 and $5.20 at odds of 9-1. Eastern Belle, ridden by Rocco, paid $6.20 and $3.60. Walk Close, a nose back in third under Lanerie, returned $3.
Industrial Policy, Notte d’Oro, Wicked Temper, Honey Lake, Antonia Autumn, Galileo’s Moon and Always Kitten completed the order of finish. Nice Number was scratched.
The Keertana honors the Barbara Hunter homebred, who won four of her nine starts at Churchill Downs, including a nose triumph over males in the 2011 Louisville Handicap (Grade III). She also won the 2009 Regret (GIII) by a neck. Overall, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Johar out of the Storm Cat mare Motokiks won 11 of 29 starts between 2008-12 – including six stakes – and $1,031,938 while racing under the care of Proctor. In 2010, Keertana was beaten a half-length when third behind Shared Account and Midday in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (GI) beneath the Twin Spires.
KEERTANA (DIVISION 1) QUOTES
Harry Eustace, assistant trainer to Christophe Clement of Courtesan (winner): “She ran well in the stakes race last time out at Keeneland and she’s actually won on soft ground before so the rain didn’t hinder us. We thought she’d run well. We were in a perfect position and we had a delightful trip. She ran as expected. She’ll go back to New York and we’ll find something for her up there.”
Corey Lanerie, jockey of Courtesan (winner): “He [Eustace] said just ride her with confidence and let her break and I didn’t give her too much to do. I actually thought that I would be sitting third or fourth, but I handicapped a couple of horses in there that I might have went with, and when I was sitting second there I might have let her sit up there a little too long. Both horses ran a tremendous race during the last part of the race. I don’t think we got a whole lot of rain, but this turf course has been really, really well. They’re not really kicking much back. It’s got a little give in it, but I think it’s the way a turf course is supposed to be.”
Francisco Torres, jockey of First Romance (second): “She was going at a logical speed in the race and so I just controlled it. She’s game on the front end. At the three-eighths pole I went out and tried to steal it. She ran big.”
KEERTANA (DIVISION 2) QUOTES
Channing Hill, jockey of Ceisteach (winner): “With the soft turf I guess everyone was a little bit shy on making the lead. With my filly, I didn’t want to make the lead, she just kind of put me there and when her ears came up, I was happy. Obviously (trainer) Tom Proctor can get these horses ready to run big races every time, today she really just shoed her class. This filly has a really bright future I think. When I rode her at Arlington, she made my mouth drop.”
Joe Rocco, Jr., jockey of Eastern Belle (second): “Some of these grass horses that come from the back on a slow pace on soft turf, everything is against them. Coming from the back in these kinds of races can be hard to do, but my filly was really game to get up for second.”