Echo Town broke alertly, led every step of the way while racing down on the inside rail and fended off a fierce challenge by Digital in deep stretch to win Monday’s $78,960 feature at Churchill Downs by a half-length.
Owned by Lee Levinson’s L and N Racing LLC and trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen, 3-year-old Echo Town ran six furlongs over a fast track in 1:09.05 under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.
The Memorial Day feature was delayed 27 minutes by the threat of severe weather in the area that never materialized. Once the gates finally sprung open, 4-5 favorite Echo Town was pressed every step of the way while leading the field of seven 3-year-olds through splits of :21.61, :44.99 and :56.74.
“He got pressured the entire way around there and still finished strong,” Santana said. “That was impressive to still win like that.”
Echo Town, a Kentucky-bred son of 2004 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Speightstown, won for the third time in five starts. The $47,720 first prize jumped his earnings to $160,320.
Echo Town paid $3.80 to win. Digital held off a closing Meru by a neck for second.
For Asmussen, it was career-win No. 734 at Churchill Downs, which put him just three back of tying local all-time leading trainer Dale Romans.
Earlier on the special holiday card, stakes winner and two-time Grade I-runner-up Frank’s Rockette was a flashy winner of an $80,040 allowance/optional claiming event for 3-year-old fillies. The Bill Mott-trained daughter of Into Mischief wired five rivals while clocking six furlongs in a swift 1:08.80. She defeated Turtle Trax by 3 ½ lengths. The winning check of $47,720 pushed her earnings to $358,603 for Frank Fletcher Racing Operations. Overall, the Kentucky-bred has won three of her seven career starts.
“When the second to last horse was loading in the gate she sort of lunged forward like she was ready to go but she had to reset,” said winning rider Martin Garcia. “Once the gates sprung, she broke just a step slow because the ground gave out a little bit underneath her. She went that fast all on her own. I never had to ask her to run or anything. I’m so unbelievably blessed to be able to ride a horse like that. She’s a very, very special filly.”
Betting at Churchill Downs on Monday totaled $10,701,173.
After dark days on Tuesday and Wednesday, racing at Churchill Downs will resume Thursday with a 10-race card at 1 p.m. (all times Eastern). The featured ninth race is an $88,000 allowance for fillies and mares at five furlongs on turf. G. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s 6-year-old mare Morticia is the 9-5 favorite in the oversubscribed field of 10. She is an eight-time stakes winner for veteran trainer Rusty Arnold.
Thursday’s card will include a $22,154 carryover in the $1 Super Hi-5 for the final race of the day. There is no carryover in the 20-cent Single 6 Jackpot because there was one perfect ticket on Monday which paid $96,690.
Racing from Churchill Downs on Thursday will air on FS2 from 1-6 p.m. as part of FOX Sports’ “America’s Day at the Races” coverage. It also will be broadcast on FOX Sports Ohio and FOX Sports South from 3-5:30 p.m.