Richard Klein’s Pinch Hit rallied to grab the lead in mid-stretch and held off a late surge by Champagne Problems to win Saturday night’s 42nd running of the $100,000 Dogwood Stakes Presented by GE Appliances (Listed) at Churchill Downs by a neck.
Pinch Hit, the 5-1 third-betting choice in the field of nine 3-year-old fillies, relaxed nicely in sixth under jockey Jon Court as No More Babies set a swift opening quarter mile in :22.56 with Student Body and Covenant in close pursuit. After a half mile in :45.80, Pinch Hit rolled five-wide on the turn and was closing fast on the leaders at the head of the stretch before she took command with an eighth of a mile to run. Champagne Problems, who raced near the rear early on at odds of 13-1, stayed along the inside rail under Calvin Borel and just missed catching Pinch Hit, who held her off in the final stages.
“She was definitely on her game tonight,” Court said. “We sat a really good trip behind the speed and she responded perfectly when I asked her. I was very impressed with her effort.”
Farrell, the three-time Grade II winner who made her first start since a 14th-place finish at odds of 4-1 in the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (Grade I), chased the pace early on and faded in the stretch to disappoint as the 2-1 favorite.
Pinch Hit ran seven furlongs over a fast track in 1:23.27 for trainer Brad Cox.
“She had been training so well into this race,” Cox said. “She definitely loves it here at Churchill Downs.”
Pinch Hit returned $12.20, $7.20 and $4.60 to her backers. Champagne Problems, paid $12.80 and $6.40. Jordan’s Henny, ridden by Corey Lanerie, was another 3 ½ lengths back in third and returned $5.
Covenant, Farrell, Nineteenth Street, No More Babies, Student Body and My Sweet Stella completed the order of finish. Tequilita, Too Much Tip, Cara Blythe, Minnie Blip and Perfect Wife were scratched.
The victory was worth $59,520 and boosted Pinch Hit’s earnings to $146,450.
Pinch Hit has won four of nine starts but this was her first stakes win. In her prior start, she finished fourth in the $100,000 Groupie Doll (GIII) on Aug. 13 at Ellis Park.
“In the Groupie Doll she got herself into a hot pace but she sat a much better trip tonight,” Cox said. “I know this is a special horse for Richard so I’m glad we were able to get her a stakes win tonight.”
Bred in Kentucky, Pinch Hit is a 3-year-old daughter of Harlan’s Holiday out of Klein’s Distorted Humor mare Change Up.
“This horse is so special to me,” Klein said. “My father (Bert) bred this horse and she broke her maiden the day before he passed away earlier this year. Then, she won on my birthday and again on my (late) mom (Elaine)’s birthday. I think there are angels watching over her. To win a race like this, it is more special than I can really explain.”
The Dogwood was the feature race on an 11-race “Downs After Dark Presented Stella Artois and Woodford Reserve” nighttime racing program that attracted 15,317 fans.
Immediately following the Dogwood, Tom Fritz’s Michigan homebred Quick and Rich scored a 19-1 upset of Eastern Man and defending champ and two-time reigning Arabian Horse of the Year Paddys Day in the $100,000 President of the United Arab Emirates Cup (GI) for purebred Arabian 4-years-old and up.
Quick and Rich rallied from off the pace under Joe Rocco Jr. to get past 5-2 second choice Eastern Man inside the final sixteenth of a mile to win by three-quarters of a length. Paddys Day, the $0.70-1 favorite, was another 1 ¼ lengths back in third.
Quick and Rich, a 7-year-old son of Th Richie conditioned by eight-time Darley Award-winning trainer Lynn Ashby, stopped the teletimer in 1:54.39 to score the first Grade I win of his career. Overall, it was his seventh win in 26 starts, and the $58,280 winner’s share jumped his earnings to $173,964.
He paid $41.20, $16 and $4.4 in the field of eight en route to his first victory since the Fourth of July in 2015. The upset triumph snapped an 11-race losing streak.
For Rocco, it was his third win in the stakes race. He won the 2013-14 renewals with Valiant Boy SBFAR.
This was the fifth time since 2011 a race for purebred Arabian horses – the world’s most ancient breed of equines – was staged at the world-famous Churchill Downs.
JON COURT, jockey of PINCH HIT (winner): “I’m so grateful of Brad (Cox) and his whole team for getting this filly ready. She was definitely on her game tonight. We sat a really good trip behind the speed and she responded perfectly when I asked her. I was very impressed with her effort.”
BRAD COX, trainer of PINCH HIT (winner): “She has been training so well into this race. She definitely loves it here at Churchill Downs. In the Groupie Doll she got herself into a hot pace but she sat a much better trip tonight. I know this is a special horse for Richard (Klein) so I’m glad we were able to get her a stakes win tonight.”
RICHARD KLEIN, owner of PINCH HIT (winner): “This horse is so special to me. My father (Bert) bred this horse and she broke her maiden the day before he passed away earlier this year. Then, she won on my birthday and again on my (late) mom (Elaine)’s birthday. I think there are angels watching over her. To win a race like this, it is more special than I can really explain.”
IAN WILKES, trainer of CHAMPAGNE PROBLEMS (runner-up): “The filly went to the paddock really good today. She saddled well and relaxed beautifully in the race for Calvin (Borel) and she ran good. She ran a winning race – except we just didn’t win. If I can get her to relax, I really feel that she can do it. She’s always had the talent.”
MIKE TOMLINSON, trainer of JORDAN’S HENNY (third): “She ran very well. It was just a wide trip and post position got her hung out there a little wide and that hurt us a little. But she ran her eyeballs out and it looks to me like we just couldn’t quite get there. She’s going be a better filly with age. She’s maturing and getting better and we’re looking forward to her 4-year-old year.”
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES CUP QUOTES
JOE ROCCO JR., jockey of QUICK AND RICH (winner): “He ran a huge race tonight. I’ve won this race a couple of other times before and he’s up there with some of the best Arabians I’ve ever ridden. Paddys Day is a very nice horse and tonight we were just the best. I’ll be excited to go back overseas and ride him.”
LYNN ASHBY, trainer of QUICK AND RICH (winner): “The real difference maker tonight was Joe Rocco. He has such a great clock and rode the absolute perfect race. This absolutely made my year to win this race.”
TOM FRITZ, owner/breeder of QUICK AND RICH (winner): “I would have never imagined I would get a win at Churchill Downs. To beat a horse like Paddys Day is unbelievable. This is the last horse I bred that will race so it’s very special to win this race.”