Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider’s homebred Vexed raced close to the pace throughout and drew clear in the stretch to win Saturday’s 70th running of the $169,050 Golden Rod (Grade II) at Churchill Downs by one-length over a game Bird Maker.
Ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan and trained by Al Stall Jr., Vexed ran 1 1/16 miles over a fast main track in 1:43.83 to give iconic Claiborne Farm their record-equaling 32nd stakes win at Churchill Downs, which dates back to 1956. They are now tied with world famous Calumet Farm, which is seeking its first local stakes triumph since 1984 under new operator Brad Kelley.
Sent to post as the 7-2 third betting choice in the field of 10 2-year-old fillies, Vexed moved forward off her runner-up effort in the $62,700 Rags to Riches overnight stakes on Oct. 27.
Breaking from post seven, Vexed raced close behind pacesetters Daddy’s Memory and Stonetastic, who led the field through quarter-mile fractions of :24.05, :47.88 and 1:12.52. The winner challenged three-wide on the second turn and edged away from 3-1 favorite Bird Maker, who was unable to reel in the winner.
Vexed paid $9.20, $4.80 and $3. Bird Maker, ridden by Julien Leparoux, returned $4.80 and $3. Stonetastic, with Corey Lanerie in the saddle, was another length back in third and paid $3.
Naïve Enough, Streethomealabama, Playful Love, Runway Giant, Madly Truly, Daddy’s Memory and Canaryinacoalmine completed the order of finish.
For Bridgmohan, it was his 11th stakes race at Churchill Downs this year.
Vexed, a daughter of Arch out of the Mighty mare Cross, improved her record to two wins in four starts with a second and a third. The $99,570 first prize jumped her earnings to $143,718.
The Golden Rod is one of 29 races on the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” series that will determine which 14 fillies will have preference for America’s richest race for 3-year-old fillies. Vexed earned 10 points for the win. Bird Maker earned four for second, Stonetastic earned two for third (she has six overall) and Naïve Enough notched one point for fourth.
GOLDEN ROD QUOTES
AL STALL JR., trainer of VEXED (winner): “To me it looked like she took a pretty big step forward. I liked the way she acted in the paddock – she was really flat-footed. (Jockey) Shaun (Bridgmohan) said that once she got clear of (jockey) Corey (Lanerie on Stonetastic) – he was putting a little heat on her – she really just dropped it and started galloping along and finished up when she saw some horses coming to her. I think we saw what we needed to see so it’s a question of just managing her and trying to get back here in May (for the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks).”
Q: Comment on the significance of riding Claiborne’s record-equaling 32nd stakes win at Churchill Downs … “I’m just happy to be a part of it. I’m just a tiny cog in the wheel. It’s exciting to be a part of it. It would be a lot of fun to break it next spring.”
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, jockey of VEXED (winner): “She’s a pretty straight-forward filly. Obviously, she breaks sharp enough where you can be tactical with her. She left there running. I put her in a good spot. Corey (Lanerie) came in a little bit (with Stonetastic) which was fine, so I got her to the outside and basically it was just a smooth trip from there on out. I was able to dictate when I wanted to go. When I pushed the button, she responded very well. (Trainer) Al (Stall Jr.) and his team did a great job. She’s a little bit antsy but I think, mentally, she’s maturing.
"I think that now she’s maturing mentally that it’s going to take her a long way just because she’s learning to settle a little bit more, handling herself and finishing well.”
Q: Comment on the significance of riding Claiborne’s record-equaling 32nd stakes win at Churchill Downs … “That’s exciting! I got to do it. How ’bout that?
DELL HANCOCK, co-owner of VEXED (winner): “It’s great to have this win under our belt. That mare (Cross, the dam of Vexed) has been good to us. She has a nice Blame year on so let’s hope he can come on and be a nice horse and go from there.
Q: Comment on the significance of riding Claiborne’s record-equaling 32nd stakes win at Churchill Downs … “It’s wonderful to have we don’t think like ‘Well, we need one more to do this.’ Now we might think about if we win the next one we’ll be the leading owner but, you know, you want to win every race you can. It’s a tribute to Seth (Hancock) and my father (A.B. “Bull” Hancock Jr.) to have this.”
Q: What kind of future do you think this filly has? “I thought her last race was good and then when the filly that was third came back and won the race at Delta Downs it made you feel even better about it. As (trainer) Al (Stall Jr.) said, she took a big step forward today, I thought. She ought to go a distance, being by Arch, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed. Let’s hope she likes it here well enough in the spring.”
IAN WILKES, trainer of BIRD MAKER (runner-up): “She ran very good – how could you be upset with that? Her first time at two turns, her first time in a stakes race and she was still getting to the winner at the wire. The other filly (Vexed) has had a little more seasoning, so I think she’s got a very bright future.”
JULIAN LEPAROUX, jockey on BIRD MAKER (runner-up): “I had a good trip – a perfect trip. I was right behind the speed and right behind the winner, too. So I just kind of followed her and thought I might be able to go by her, but I just stayed there. But she ran big.”
COREY LANERIE, jockey on STONETASTIC (third): “She ran super. At the quarter pole when I pushed the button I smiled too soon – I thought I had the race won. She took off and gave me everything she had. She just got outrun today. I had a perfect trip, stalking right on the outside. It was a comfortable pace for her - :47 (for the half-mile) is pretty comfortable. I had no excuse.”