Even as the tote board lit up after Saturday's Grade III Coolmore Lexington, it still couldn't convey how improbable it was that All Squared Away was being led toward the hardware following his 11⁄16-mile tour around the Keeneland track.
The horse who was bought for a minimum bid of $1,000 as a yearling and who had done no better than sixth against stakes company, had somehow overcome his form and had 23,823 in attendance wondering what their handicapping had missed.
Dismissed by the betting public at odds of 70-1, All Squared Away pulled off the stunner of the Keeneland Spring Meet when he ranged up on the outside to take control in the final furlong and draw off for a 11/2-length triumph over 10 rivals.
On paper, there wasn't much to suggest the Bellamy Road gelding was about to produce the largest win payoff ($143.20) in Lexington Stakes history. The dark bay took five tries to break his maiden in California and had finished seventh in the Grade III El Camino Real Derby and sixth in the Grade III Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes.
Trainer and majority owner Peter Miller saw something in that Spiral run at Turfway Park, however, and he opted to leave the gelding in Kentucky under the care of fellow trainer Wesley Ward for a shot at the Lexington. He didn't necessarily predict victory, but Miller also didn't think his charge merited such long odds.
"He ran big in the Spiral (though) it didn't look like it, but he broke on top, he made a big mid-race move and flattened out a bit," said Miller, who bought All Squared Away for $1,000 at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale and owns him in partnership with Wire to Wire Racing. "I was surprised to see him 70 to 1.
"There was not a lot as far as 3-year-old stakes in California at this point so I thought it was the proper thing to leave him with Wesley in Kentucky for this race. I knew he liked Polytrack and I wanted to give him one more chance. I really think the horse is a nice horse and he proved me right today."
In his first start for Ward after being conditioned by Miller for his previous eight outings, All Squared Away settled in fourth after breaking from post No. 9, a few lengths behind Johannesbourbon, Castaway, and Hammers Terror who prompted each other through an opening half in :46.54.
Johannesbourbon emerged from the pack to take a short lead entering the stretch but All Squared Away swung out and came running down the middle of the track under jockey Julio Garcia, who kept riding to the second finish line after stopping the teletimer in 1:42.55.
"I got a little confused, I didn't know which wire it was, the first or second," Garcia laughed. "I rode this horse in the morning and I knew he was going to run a good race today."
Summer Front, the 2-1 favorite, was second with Hammers Terror third.
Miller talked about starting All Squared Away in the Preakness Stakes on May 19, but he quickly changed course when reminded the gelding was not Triple Crown nominated and would have to be supplemented.
"Oh never mind," Miller said. "I'm not giving up the $100,000 I just made to run in the Preakness."
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com.