Praia grabbed the lead with an eighth of mile to run and turned back a late rally by Gulsary-IRE to prevail by a head and win Saturday’s second running of the $64,549 Keertana overnight stakes for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs.
Praia, ridden by Chris Landeros and trained by Kenny McPeek, ran 1 3/8 miles over firm turf in 2:16.92.
Through most of the race, Praia was rated in fourth along the inside behind pacesetter Honey Hues, who clicked off fractions of :25.37, :49.50, 1:14.56 and 1:39.23. With a quarter mile left to run, Landeros asked Praia for her run. She took the lead in deep stretch but had to hold back Gulsary-IRE, who rallied belated on the inside.
The victory was worth $39,720 to owner Julio Camargo’s Haras Old Friends and improved Praia’s earnings to $231,912 with a record of 14-3-5-0.
This was Praia’s first career stakes triumph. As a 3-year-old, she was the bridesmaid in three consecutive stakes: the $173,400 Edgewood, $113,900 Regret (GIII) and $150,000 Virginia Oaks (GIII).
Praia, a daughter of Distorted Humor out of the Royal Academy mare Quero Quero, was bred in Kentucky by Old Friends Inc.
Praia returned $23, $10 and $7 at odds of 10-1 in the field of 11 fillies and mares. Gulsary-IRE, ridden by Joe Rocco Jr., paid $9.60 and $5.60. Topic, who also rallied late with Corey Lanerie up, was another three quarters of a length back in third and paid $5.60.
Street of Gold, Honey Lake, 3-1 favorite White Rose, Always Kitten, Seanchai, Honey Hues, Adventure At Sea and Stoptalkingmaria completed the order of finish. Phonybooksnrecords 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 trainer Tom 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.
Chris Landeros, jockey of Praia (winner) – “It worked out perfect. I talked to Kenny (McPeek) this morning and he said that she was the type of filly that seems to find her way in some trouble, so he wanted her forwardly placed today. I had a great trip, I was right behind the leaders and I found a seam at the top of the stretch and she split out and just took off. It worked out great. I stayed after her pretty good at the end and she gave me her all. I was happy we got it.”
Matt Shirer, assistant trainer of Praia (winner) – “It was a good trip. Kenny wanted her a little bit closer so you have to stay after her a little bit, so Chris (Landeros) did a great job with that. It was a perfect trip really. I was pretty confident that we had the head bob at the end.”