(May 30, 2008) – Water Gap, ridden by Fernando De La Cruz, led throughout in Friday’s $49,800 allowance feature at Churchill Downs and beat Swingit by 1 ¼ lengths. Ballado’s Thunder, the 4-5 favorite in the field of six fillies and mares, finished another 1 ¼ lengths behind in third.

Water Gap, an 8-year-old mare who made her first start for trainer Michael Trivigno and owner Roger Thomas, ran one mile over a “firm” turf course in 1:37.26 with the rail positioned 22 feet off the inside hedge. It was her eighth career win in 77 starts and first triumph since winning the $75,000 Firecracker Stakes at Mountaineer Park in July 2007.

Water Gap ran the first quarter mile in :24.76 and the half in :49.21. At the head of the stretch through six furlongs in 1:13.80, Ballado’s Thunder drew even with Water Gap, but the eventual winner had plenty of run left and turned back a belated bid by Swingit.

Water Gap, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Darby Creek Lance, earned $31,608 for the victory and jumped her career total to $272,332.

It was the second win of the day for De La Cruz, who improved his season total to six victories.

Water Gap, sent to post as the 10-1 second longest shot in the field, paid $23.80, $7.80 and $3.60. Swingit returned $4.20 and $2.40. Ballado’s Thunder returned $2.20 to show.

A stakes tripleheader is on tap Saturday at Churchill Downs. The 11-race program, which begins at 1:15 p.m. ET, includes the $125,000-added Aristides Stakes (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs; the $100,000-added Dogwood Stakes (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at one mile; and $100,000-added Opening Verse Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Graded stakes winners Elite Squadron, Kelly’s Landing and Noonmark will clash in the Aristides (Race 10 at 5:51 p.m. ET). The second, third and fourth place finishers from the La Troienne (GIII) – Forward Gal (GII) runner-up Keep the Peace, Tiz to Dream and Fantasy second Alina – will meet again in the Dogwood (Race 8 at 4:49 p.m. ET). Multi-millionaire Cloudy’s Knight will make his first start since capturing the Group 1 Canadian International at Woodbine last October in the Opening Verse (Race 9 at 5:21 p.m. ET).

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