Thomas Fedro Sr. and Team Block’s Free Fighter, ridden by Francisco Torres, surged past dueling leaders Eagle Poise and Telling on the far turn and went on to win the 73rd running of the $113,800 Louisville Handicap (GIII) at Churchill Downs by two lengths over Bearpath.

    Telling, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, led the field of 10 through leisurely fractions of :25.72 and :51.25 with Eagle Poise and Jamie Theriot in closest pursuit and Free Fighter racing third in the clear on the outside of the leaders. Entering the backstretch, Eagle Poise moved to the inside of Telling to take command through six furlongs in 1:16.20 and the mile in 1:41.45.

    Approaching the far turn, Blushing Bear, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., attacked the leaders along the hedge while Torres swung wide with Free Fighter. Only Free Fighter continued to surge as he opened a daylight advantage in the stretch and had more than enough to hold off 2009 Louisville Handicap winner Brass Hat initially and then Bearpath.

    Trained by Chris Block, Free Fighter completed the 1 ½ miles on a “yielding” Matt Winn Turf Course in 2:31.30. The victory was worth $67,028 to the 5-year-old Illinois-bred son of Out of Place and increased his bankroll to $305,878 with a career mark of 20-7-1-3.
    
    Free Fighter, who had been winless in two previous starts over the Churchill Downs turf course, returned $27.20, $12.40 and $8 under 115 pounds. Bearpath, carrying 117 pounds and ridden by Freddie Lenclud, paid $6.80 and $4.60 with Brass Hat finishing third another 1 ¼ lengths back under Tony Farina and paying $2.80 to show under a 119-pound impost.

    It was another 2 ½ lengths back to Silver Mountain, who was followed in order by favored Telling, Blushing Bear, Eagle Poise, Silverfoot, March to Victory and Hidden Glance. Spy in the Sky was scratched.

    Racing continues Sunday with a 10-race program that begins at 12:45 p.m. (EDT). There’s a one-day Pick 6 carryover of $3,929 on races 5-10.

LOUISVILLE HANDICAP QUOTES

FRANCISCO TORRES (jockey, FREE FIGHTER, winner): “Couldn’t draw it any better. I had two horses in front of me and my horse was relaxed. He was just waiting for me to push the button. When I pushed the button he responded turning for home and he kind of opened up; it was catch me if you can and they didn’t. When you go so slow fractions you have to sprint off and wait for them at the three-eighths pole to go on and steal the race and I did. I let my horse jump on the bridle and at the three-eighths pole I caught them and bolted to the quarter pole. He opened up and in simple words ‘stole it’ and it all paid off. It’s the icing on the cake (winning a stakes race here). Not only is it a great feeling but I want the trainers here to know that I’m back.”

DAVID BLOCK (co-owner, FREE FIGHTER, winner): “He had a good start, he settled nicely and ran a great race. When he kicked home, he wasn’t letting anyone by him. He’s an Illinois-bred and we entered him last week for a race at Arlington for Illinois-breds but it was rained off the turf so we brought him here. The rest is history. He loves the mile-and-a-half distance and if he runs in anything shorter he flattens out. Churchill Downs is his favorite track. We were very fortunate to get ‘Cisco’ (jockey Francisco Torres) to ride this horse. He (Torres) is full of potential. I don’t think we will look at running against Illinois-breds anymore. He can run all day and can be hot blooded, but in the paddock we took him away from the other horses and he was cool, calm, and collected. [Trainer] Chris [Block] is in Chicago at Arlington Park today. He is saddling three today, including one in the American Derby.”

FREDDIE LENCLUD (jockey, BEARPATH, second): “I had a trip on the rail and it wasn’t the position I would have liked but the race just kind of set up like that so I just had to be patient. Around the turn, I had to let him pick it up behind Brass Hat and it made him finish down the lane.”

WILLIAM “BUFF” BRADLEY (trainer, BRASS HAT, third): “Tony [Farina] gave him a good trip and he ran a good race. He made a nice run turning for home, but just didn’t have enough late. Me and dad (Fred Bradley) will sit down with a couple of Coronas and think about his next start.”

TONY FARINA (jockey, BRASS HAT, third): “He’s just an old horse and he knows what he has to do. I had a nice hold on him and at the six-furlong pole, I said I had to get out of here and make sure I am in the right spot. He did exactly what I asked him to do. When I was turning for home, he felt like a winner. He was just a little tired the last sixteenth of a mile.”

SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN (jockey, TELLING, fifth): “I had a good trip. He was on the lead nice and easy and just got a bit tired. But I had a good trip.”

STEVE HOBBY (trainer, TELLING, beaten favorite, fifth): “It was his second start of the year, and he was rank in the early going. The yielding turf didn’t help us. He got tired.”

COREY  LANERIE (jockey, SILVERFOOT, eighth): “I had a good trip. When I broke out of the gate I was in a comfortable position. I called on him at the three-eighths pole but he just didn’t have anything in him.”

DALLAS STEWART (trainer, SILVERFOOT, eighth): “He had good position; he just didn’t have it today. He settled nicely, and looked comfortable, but just didn’t have that kick. We will probably look at Shelbyville, meaning going home for him . . . retirement.”

NOTES: This was the first Churchill Downs stakes win for jockey Francisco Torres, 40, since winning three local stakes in 2000 (the Louisville Handicap, Dogwood and Aristides). It was his ninth Churchill Downs stakes win overall.  

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 Global Select Market: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will host the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7, 2011 and the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, May 6, 2011. The track’s 2010 Spring Meet continues through Sunday, July 4. Churchill Downs is scheduled to host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for a record seventh time on Nov. 5 and 6, 2010. Churchill Downs tickets are available at Tickets.ChurchillDowns.com or by calling (502) 636-4400. Additional information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at ChurchillDowns.com.

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