John and Glen Sikura’s Serenading drew away from Morena (Per) in midstretch to win the 94th running of the $160,950 Falls City Handicap (Grade II) by three lengths at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Julien Leparoux for trainer Josie Carroll, Serenading ran the 1 1/8 miles over a fast main track in a light drizzle in 1:50.66. The victory was worth $99,789 and increased Serenading’s earnings to $538,754 with a record of 18-6-7-2.
Best Lass led the field through fractions of :24.46, :48.60 and 1:13.02 with Serenading tracking in second followed by Morena and heavily favored Unbridled Belle.
At the midpoint of the far turn, Serenading, Morena and Unbridled Belle rushed past Best Lass and hit the top of the stretch as a team. Unbridled Belle, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, was the first to check out of the duel and then Serenading began to kick clear at the eighth pole to secure the victory.
Serenading returned $11.60 and $6.80 and Morena, ridden by Miguel Mena, paid $12 to place in finishing 2 ½ lengths ahead of Unbridled Belle. It was another nine lengths back to Best Lass with Copper State finishing fifth. There was no show wagering as the field was reduced to five with the Thursday morning scratch of Swift Temper.
Serenading is a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of A.P. Indy and her victory was the first for Carroll at Churchill Downs.
Holiday weekend racing resumes Friday with a 12-race card beginning at 11:30 a.m. (all times ET). The highlight of the card will be the 135th running of the $400,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare that drew a full field of 14 horses. The Clark will go as the day’s 11th race with an approximate post time of 4:29 p.m.
The 21-day Fall Meet concludes Saturday with the 12-race “Stars of Tomorrow II” card exclusively for 2-year-olds. First post time is 11:30 a.m.
POST-RACE QUOTES – THE FALLS CITY HANDICAP
JULIEN LEPAROUX, jockey of SERENADING, winner: “My mare broke very well so I took the shot to go to the lead and get the jump on her (Unbridled Belle). I was planning on being behind her at the top of the stretch and trying to run her down. She must not have broken very well. When I was at the top of the stretch she (Serenading) really had a great turn of foot. She turned away the others and made it very easy for me. She really seemed to take to the dirt very well.”
JOSIE CARROLL, trainer of SERANADING, winner (via telephone from Canada): “She’s a lovely, lovely mare. You know I had a lot of confidence that she’d run well on dirt. She had one dirt start in her life at Fair Grounds and she put forth a big performance that day.
“As far as the race today, I thought he (Julien Leparoux) was sitting nicely off [Best Lass] when they broke. I was little worried when she went for the lead because I know she likes to stalk but she looked so comfortable there. She just looked comfortable all throughout the race. When he asked her and she kicked on like that I thought she’d be really hard to beat.”
Q: Was this the final race of her career? “It was until today. I’ll have to sit down with (co-owner) John (Sikura). Prior to the race, we thought she did everything she needed to do for him. She’s been a great mare. But he said if she proved herself capable of winning Grade IIs or better then perhaps we’d keep her going. So I’ll sit down with him and make sure everything is good after the race and see what happens next.”
MIGUEL MENA, jockey on MORENA, runner-up: “She ran really good. I made an early move because of the pressure from the 5-horse (Unbridled Belle) at the three-eighths pole. But my filly gave me everything. She ran hard. I just didn’t want to move that soon, but Ramon (Dominguez) just came up to me and made us go on.”
RAMON DOMINGUEZ, jockey on UNBRIDLED BELLE, third as the favorite: “She broke a little on the awkward side, and after that I just had to kind of settle and stalk from the outside. She didn’t have her usual punch down the lane today.”
Q: They were going pretty slow, but you had to expect that … “I was hoping to be on the lead or controlling the pace, but when she broke like that I had to go to ‘Plan B.’ It wasn’t ideal.”
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