(June 12, 2008) – Veteran jockey Larry Melancon secured his 900th riding victory at Churchill Downs when he guided A.P. Xcellent to a front-running two-length score over Wise River in Thursday afternoon’s $47,400 D.D. Williamson’s Leadership Challenge purse for 3-year-olds and up.

Melancon, a 52-year-old native of Breaux Bridge, La., trails only Hall of Famer Pat Day (2,481) and Don Brumfield (925) in career victories at Churchill Downs. Forty-seven of those wins have come in stakes, also third all-time at the Louisville track.

Owned by Mrs. S.K. Johnston Jr., Marco Bommarito and the Molly Malone Racing Club and trained by Niall O’Callaghan, A.P. Xcellent covered the 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1.48.96 in defeating three rivals.

A.P. Xcellent returned payoffs of $3.20 and $2.10. Wise River, ridden by Jamie Theriot, paid $4 to place.

A 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of A.P. Indy, A.P. Xcellent posted his first victory on grass in seven tries and increased his overall record to four wins in 18 starts for earnings of $359,725. In 2007, A.P. Xcellent placed in two graded stakes on the synthetic track at Hollywood Park, including a runner-up finish to Lava Man by a nose in the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup.

Earlier on the card, Louis O’Brien’s Raving Rocket won his 11th consecutive race. Trained by Ralph Martinez, Raving Rocket prevailed by a length over Moment of Song. The streak, which began on June 12, 2007, has been compiled at seven tracks. Robby Albarado was aboard for Thursday’s victory.

Also, the final race of the day produced a record payoff for the new Super Hi-5 wager, which requires bettors to pick the top five finishers in order. Only one winning ticket purchased in Southern California had the combination of 12-7-6-2-4, and it was worth $66,598.20, which bettered the $35,179.30 reward on June 1.

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