As a five-horse cavalry charge came to the line in the Grade I, $300,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes Saturday, trainer Michael Matz was hoping for a grey horse, carrying his client's colors, to emerge.
The steel-colored body that hit the wire first indeed belonged to Matz-trainee Hard Not to Like as the 5-year-old mare pulled the upset at odds of 13-to-1 over nine challengers to notch her first career Grade I victory in the 11⁄16-miles turf race.
The Jenny Wiley was one of four graded stakes on the undercard of Saturday's Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
Owned and bred by Garland Williamson, Hard Not to Like had only recently snapped a six-race losing skid when she won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 28.
The daughter of Hard Spun sat midpack through a half in :48.61 and showed an explosive kick when she split rivals in the stretch and dove to the inside of Grade I winner and fellow gray lady Discreet Marq to edge that one by half a length. Abaco was only another nose back in third.
"We had to give her a shot. She's trained as good as she's ever trained since I've had her," Matz said. "If she didn't run well, she just probably wasn't good enough. I didn't know what was happening (in the stretch). I was just looking for a gray mare to come through, and thank God she did."
Final time for the race was 1:42.38 over a course rated firm.
Judy the Beauty scores
Judy the Beauty's affinity for Keeneland gave trainer/owner Wesley Ward his first Grade I victory in North America when the 5-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper drew off under John Velazquez to win the Grade I, $300,000 Madison Stakes by 21/2 lengths, going seven furlongs on the Polytrack.
Ward, who has won more than 1,200 races in his career, saddled Judy the Beauty to victory over champion Groupie Doll in the Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland last October. The chestnut mare is now 4-for-4 lifetime over the Keeneland surface and came into the Madison off a victory in the Grade III Las Flores Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Mar. 9.
Judy the Beauty settled between rivals through an opening half in :46.43 before launching her bid four-wide and opening up handily to hit the wire in 1:22.86. Grade I-winner Better Lucky got up for second with Apropos, 21/4 lengths back, in third.
Marchman leads the way
Breaking sharply out of post position No. 5, Marchman made his front-end ability stand up as the 23-to-1 shot held off an inside rally from fellow longshot Positive Side to take the Grade III Shakertown, going 51/2 furlongs on the Keeneland turf.
Under Robby Albarado, Marchman rattled off honest fractions of :22.37 and :45.07, holding onto his advantage by a neck at the wire to earn his first graded stakes win and first triumph since taking the Woodchopper Stakes at Fair Grounds last November.
The four-year-old son of Sharp Humor hit the wire in 1:02.36 with Positive Side three-quarters of a length ahead of Something Extra in third.
Occasional View rallies
The decision to put Occasional View into Saturday's Grade III Commonwealth Stakes didn't come until the last minute and the dark bay gelding appropriately delivered a late charge to collar front-running Dimension and prevail by a length in the seven-furlong test on the Polytrack.
After attempts to get him into an allowance race failed, trainer Ken McPeek and owner Robert Trussell took a swing at getting the 6-year-old son of Silver Deputy his first graded stakes win in 20 career starts. Under left-handed urging from jockey Alan Garcia, Occasional View advanced from seventh around the far turn and came with a big kick down the middle of the track to stop the teletimer in 1:22.77.
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.