Ike and Dawn Thrash and Janet and Sam Alley’s 4-year-old filly Katie’s Eyes pulled away from a field of eight fillies and mares inside the final 100 yards to win Saturday’s fifth running of the $66,029 Unbridled Sidney by 1 ¼ lengths over Free as a Bird on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Katie’s Eyes, the 7-5 favorite, ran five furlongs over a firm Matt Winn Turf Course in :55.64 to give jockey Florent Geroux his first stakes win at the historic Louisville racetrack. Also, the overnight stakes was the first Churchill Downs stakes win for trainer Mike Stidham since Tizaqueena won the 2009 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (Grade II).
Katie’s Eyes tracked pacesetters Gift Receipt and Fioretti from the outside in fifth through early fractions of :22.26 and :44.60. Gift Receipt extended her lead on the turn for home, but Katie’s Eyes had yet to hit her best stride. Geroux swung the Kentucky-bred to the center of the course and she kicked home powerfully to overtake the leader.
Free as a Bird, who also closed with a late rush, was second, one length ahead of Richies Party Girl. Gift Receipt faded to fourth and was followed by Fioretti, Gal About Town, Primed for Passion and V C F Proud Mary. Shrinking Violet and Knit One Purr Too were scratched.
The victory was worth $39,780 and improved Katie’s Eyes’ earnings to $207,941 with a record of 10-5-0-3.
This was the third career stakes triumph for Katie’s Eyes, a daughter of Leroidesanimaux (BRZ) out of the Cape Town mare Get an Eye Full. She won the $100,000 Giant’s Causeway at Keeneland in her previous start and the restricted $40,000 South Mississippi Owners and Breeders Stakes at Fair Grounds at age 3 in 2014.
Katie’s Eyes returned $4.80, $2.40 and $2.20. Free as a Bird, the 9-5 second betting choice ridden by Chris Landeros, paid $2.40 and $2.20. Richies Party Girl, the 4-1 third choice under Robby Albarado, returned $3.20.
This was the second Unbridled Sidney won by the Thrashes. They bagged the 2012 renewal with Wild About Marie.
The Unbridled Sidney honors the Ronny Werner-trained mare who won four of seven starts at five furlongs over Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course in 2005-07 for owners Douglas and Norrine Devenport. The daughter of Unbridled’s Song was retired in the summer of 2007 with eight wins and $680,380 in 23 starts.
UNBRIDLED SIDNEY QUOTES
MICHAEL STIDHAM (trainer, Katie’s Eyes, winner): “She is fast. I was like ‘What are we doing behind Free as a Bird?’ because I thought we were quicker than her. Going five-eighths of a mile they’re going to be going quick. She just flew home. Every time we’ve run her it’s just been raising the bar a little bit and she just keeps getting better and better and everything we ask her to do she just keeps doing. I don’t know what her limit is. There’s these kind of turf sprints kind of spotted around, so we’ll just be nominating to all of them.”
FLORENT GEROUX (jockey, Katie’s Eyes, winner): “She finished so strong I could barely keep moving with her. Her head was moving faster than my hands. That [Free as a Bird] was the horse to beat and when we went past the quarter pole, she just exploded. She finished so strong I was like ‘Wow!’ The last 50-60 yards I just stopped riding her. I think she’s a lot better at stalking horses than she is going to the lead.”
IAN WILKES (trainer, Free as a Bird, second): “We got outrun. The other filly outran us today – that’s twice now. I give all the credit to her. No excuse. I thought we had a good trip and I thought we had the other filly [Katie’s Eyes], but she kicked hard. She’s a nice filly.”