Jockey Miguel Mena capped a lucrative weekend at Churchill Downs by guiding 30-1 longshot Keep Up to a half-length win over 4-5 favorite Boisterous in the 35th running of the Grade III, $115,700 River City Handicap on closing day of the 21-day Fall Meet.
On Saturday, Mena swept Churchill Downs’ juvenile stakes aboard longshot filly Seanean Girl in the $167,550 Golden Rod (GII) and well-meant Uncaptured in the $171,150 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII). His victory aboard Keep Up was his fourth of the four-week stand. The 26-year-old native of Peru also piloted Uncaptured to victory in the $114,800 Iroquois (GIII) on opening day.
Keep Up, owned and co-bred by John and Alice Chandler’s Mill Ridge Farm, rallied from far back and finished in hand while clocking 1 1/8 miles over “firm” turf in 1:48.05 – second only to Dr. Kashnikow’s 2001 record of 1:47.90 in 24 runnings of the stakes at the distance. The victory was the first official stakes win for 63-year-old trainer Alex Clarkson, who has assisted in the preparation of training horses for decades.
The River City – named for was Keep Up’s first try against stakes company after winning his last two starts, including an allowance/optional- claiming event over the Matt Winn Turf Course just nine days ago. The regally-bred 5-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song out of 1998 Kentucky Oaks winner Keeper Hill banked $66,713 and improved his record to 11-5-1-4—$213,623.
Keep Up was one of 11 horses to win two races at the meet.
Keep Up was unhurried for the first half-mile as Global Power dictated the pace through fractions of :23.81, :47.26 and 1:11.07. Entering the turn for home, he trailed the leader by 8 ¾ lengths, began to advance from the outside and swung out eight-wide with a ferocious late run. He closed fast to run down multiple graded stakes winner Boisterous for the upset.
Ironically, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey III, who conditioned the runner-up, is the co-breeder of Keep Up.
Keep Up, who carried 115 pounds, paid $62.60, $15.60 and $10. Boisterous, the 124-pound starting high weight ridden by Jose Lezcano, returned $3.40 and $2.60. Skyring, under Victor Lebron and 114 pounds, was another head back in third and paid $19.40.
Swift Warrior, Optimizer, Miami Deco, Middie, Guys Reward, Global Power, Depeche Chat, Temeraine and Stormy Lord completed the order of finish.
The Churchill Downs’ Fall Meet concluded with Corey Lanerie winning the riding title with 29 wins, five more than runner-up Shaun Bridgmohan. Ken McPeek and Dale Romans tied for leading trainer with 14 wins apiece. And there was a four-way tie for leading owner honors with four wins between Brad Kelley’s Bluegrass Hall LLC; Seth Hancock’s Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider; Susan McPeek and partners’ Magdalena Racing; and Gary and Mary West.
Lanerie collected his second Churchill Downs riding after winning 71 races during the Spring Meet. Louisville-native Romans, a likely finalist for North America’s Champion Trainer honors, notched his 10th title beneath the Twin Spires and third in the fall. It was McPeek’s first local title since capturing the 2002 Fall Meet.
Racing at Churchill Downs will resume Saturday, April 27, 2013 for the 139th Spring Meet. The Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) will be run, as usual, on the first Saturday in May – May 4, 2013.
RIVER CITY HANDICAP QUOTES
Alex Clarkson, trainer of Keep Up, winner:
Q. Were there any concerns running him back so fast? “There was a lot of concern before and I was cautious and I wasn’t too confident, but he was doing great. He was eating up and training great and he looked good, so we decided to give him a shot. We had him nominated to this race just in case the prep (on Nov. 16) didn’t go and he came out of the race so well and Miguel emphasized that he never hit him. I watched the replay and he never did hit him and he only ran the last quarter (mile). We said if anything came up, we wouldn’t run him.
“He’s a well-bred horse and he’s fully developed now. He’s sound and he’s lightly raced. It’s an advantage for us now going forward.”
Q. What’s next? “If he races, he’ll probably race in New Orleans, maybe the Col. (E. R.) Bradley (Grade III on Jan. 19). That’s the first one up and we might bypass that and give him some time.”
Miguel Mena, jockey on Keep Up, winner: “He was far back, but it was a pretty solid pace and he was traveling nice. When I rode him in the mile race (on Nov. 16), he was pretty far back, too, and I didn’t want to rush him off his feet. I rode him with patience and from the quarter pole he flew home. It was an awesome weekend, especially to do it here. A few years ago, I had some issues and I appreciate the horsemen giving me great support. I’m just trying to do the right thing now and keep my family going.”
Q. What did you think when Alex (Clarkson) told you he was going to run this horse back so soon? “He said the horse came out of the race in good shape and he wanted to give him a try. In the paddock he said, ‘He’s good, but if he doesn’t have it then just take care of him,’ but he had plenty.”
Shug McGaughey, trainer of Boisterous, runner-up as 4-5 favorite (via telephone): “He ran hard. He was right there, but that horse came on the outside of him. That’s the way it goes.”
Q: You were committed to an inside trip when you drew the two post. Would you have possibly fared better farther out? Does he prefer to be outside of horses? “Maybe so – his best races have been that way. He might have laid a little bit close going a mile and an eighth, but I think probably Jose was a little bit wary of that turf course and he didn’t want to let them get away from him. I think we were just second-best.”
Jose Lezcano, jockey on Boisterous, runner-up as 4-5 favorite: “I didn’t really have any trouble. He broke good and I put him in a good spot. When I asked, he gave me his race. The other horse (Keep Up) just ran past me and did it easy. I had to stay inside with him. This horse usually likes to come around, but I had no choice today. I had to stay down there. But he gave me a good race.”
Victor Lebron, jockey on Skyring, third: “He ran really good. I can’t complain. Mr. Lukas gave me simple instructions: put a smile on that horse’s face and take it from there on. That’s exactly what I did. I put him right there in the game and he ran big. We only got beat a length for everything and a nose for second.”
Q: Did you feel the winner coming on the outside, or were you focused on Boisterous right next to you? “I had Lezcano (on Boisterous) inside, and I had to ride him and I had another horse to my outside (Swift Warrior). So I had to kind of ride two horses at the same time, or try to. The winner came way wide outside and got all of us. That’s part of the game.”
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