Peter M. Brant’s Alabama (Grade I) winner Dunbar Road overcame a sluggish start and surged past Chocolate Kisses in deep stretch to draw off and win by 1 ¾ lengths in the first running of the $100,000 Shawnee presented by TwinSpires.com to open Saturday’s “Stephen Preview Day” at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Jose Ortiz, Dunbar Road covered the 1 1/16 miles on a fast main track in 1:43.65. Now a winner in five of eight starts, Dunbar Road banked the $60,140 first prize and has earned $758,040.
The complexion of the race changed when the gates sprung open and expected pacesetter She’s a Julie, the 2-1 second betting choice and winner of last year’s La Troienne (GI), hopped in the air at the start. Instead, it was longshot Flower Party (IRE) who led the field of eight fillies and mares through comfortable early fractions of :24.72, :48.66 and 1:13.06 with Dunbar Road well back of the leader down the backstretch.
As the gray Awe Emma poked her head in front leaving far turn, Dunbar Road made a sweeping wide move to draw even at the head of the lane with Chocolate Kisses also challenging between horses. Dunbar Road, who was unraced since finishing fifth in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) at Santa Anita, was up for the challenge and fended off Chocolate Kisses late to pull clear for the comeback win.
“We broke a little slow but she’s so classy,” Ortiz said. “I’m very happy she’s back.”
A 4-year-old daughter of Quality Road out of the Bernardini mare Gift List, Dunbar Road returned mutuels of $3.40, $3.20 and $2.40 as the odds-on 3-5 favorite. Chocolate Kisses, ridden by Declan Carroll, returned $11 and $5.40 and finished 1 ¼ lengths in front of a rallying Vault, who paid $3 to show under Joel Rosario.
Awe Emma finished another three-quarters of a length back in fourth and was followed in order by Another Broad, She’s a Julie, Moonlit Garden and Flower Party (IRE).
The Shawnee, named after the neighborhood in western Louisville, is a prelude to the $200,000 Fleur de Lis (Grade II) for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on Saturday, June 27 at Churchill Downs.
ASSISTANT TRAINER WHIT BECKMAN ON DUNBAR ROAD (winner): “It was good to get her back to the races. She broke a step slow and up the backside I got a little concerned but she showed how much of a game filly she is to dig down and win like that.”
JOCKEY JOSE ORTIZ ON DUNBAR ROAD (winner): “We broke a little slow but she’s so classy. I’m very happy she’s back.”
ASSISTANT TRAINER DAVID CARROLL ON CHOCOLATE KISSES (second): “It was a weirdly run race. When She’s a Julie broke slow that changed the pace scenario. I thought we would be back a little bit from the pace but she broke so sharp that she found herself in that early position towards the front. It was a weirdly run race.”
JOCKEY DECLAN CARROLL ON CHOCOLATE KISSES (second): “I knew how well she was doing coming into this race so I thought she would run a big race, and she did against a really game horse. I really didn’t expect to be that close to the pace but I was very happy with the way my horse was able to dig in and fight hard to the wire.”