Emory Hamilton’s homebred Hungry Island collared Tapitsfly at the eighth pole and then drew off to win the 27th running of the $223,400 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Presented by American Commercial Lines (Grade II) by a length on Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Shug McGaughey and ridden by John Velazquez, Hungry Island ran the mile on a Matt Winn Turf Course labeled as “good” in 1:36.20.
Daisy Devine, winner of all four of her career starts on turf, led the field of seven through fractions of :24.78 and :48.68 with Marketing Mix and Tapitsfly in closest pursuit.
At the head of the lane, Ramon Dominguez sent Tapitsfly to the lead with Velazquez swinging Hungry Island five wide from the back of the pack. Hungry Island drew even at midstretch and then pulled away for her first victory since the Lake Placid (GII) in August at Saratoga.
The victory was worth $135,738 to Hungry Island, a 4-year-old daughter of More Than Ready out of the A.P. Indy mare Flying Passage, and increased her bankroll to $390,770 with a record of 12-5-2-4.
Hungry Island returned mutuels of $13.80, $6.40 and $4.60. Tapitsfly returned $6 and $3.80 with La Reine Lionne finishing 1 ½ lengths back in third under Javier Castellano and paying $5 to show.
Favored Marketing Mix finished 1 ½ lengths back in fourth and was followed in order by Daisy Devine, Heavenly Landing and City to City.
CHURCHILL DISTAFF TURF MILE QUOTES
JOHN VELAZQUEZ (Jockey, Hungry Island, first) – “Perfect trip. Everything worked out great. I asked her and she responded. She had a quick spurt when I had her out in the stretch and that was really nice. I’m happy to be back here at the Derby. Last year was such a whirlwind. I had a mount, I didn’t have a mount. Then I wound up winning. It was an incredible whirlwind of emotions. It’s almost surreal but I’m happy to be back.
“(Trainer) Shug (McGaughey) has been so good to me over the years. Every time he has a good horse come along, he’s given me the opportunity to ride. I’m very grateful to what he’s done for my career and to his entire staff. It’s well-deserved for them to win a race like this on Derby Day.”
SHUG MCGAUGHEY (Trainer, Hungry Island, first) – “I don’t think she needed it (her last race at Keeneland on April 11). Johnny (Velazquez) had never ridden her before and there was some stuff going on in the race and he felt like he needed to get out of it or he’d get carried wide, but probably moved just a little soon on her. I think knowing her today he just waited, and once he asked her it was over with.
“She’s run behind a fast pace, slow pace, she’s just a really nice filly. She’s got a little short kick and the race at Keeneland set her up for this one.
“I will enjoy stretching her out when the time comes. I’ll see how she comes out of it. I won’t be stretching her out there but maybe the Just a Game on Belmont Day (GI, $500,000 at one mile on turf, June 9). If we run in the Just a Game her next start after that would be the Diana (GI, $600,000 at 1 1/8 miles on turf, July 28).”
RAMON DOMINGUEZ (Jockey, Tapitsfly, second) – "The race unfolded much like we had hoped and she settled for me pretty good early on. When I called on her for run around the turn she responded nicely but the winner ran very strong down the lane. My filly ran pretty good though and I appreciate the opportunity to ride for Dale (Romans)."
DALE ROMANS (Trainer, Tapitsfly, second) – “I didn’t see any excuses. She ran a fine race. This track crew knows what they’re doing. The turf course is in amazing shape for as much rain as we got. That’s why they are the best in the country.”
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 138th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 5, 2012, and its 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.