You're never too old to do a bit of maturing.
In the $100,000 Sycamore Stakes, trainer Graham Motion saw 5-year-old gelding Sanagas deliver his most professional effort since arriving in his barn.
The German-bred Sanagas shed his previous quirks Thursday when he drew clear in the lane and held off a late run from runner-up Tahoe Lake to take the 15⁄8-mile Sycamore Stakes on the main track at Keeneland.
The Grade III Sycamore was scheduled to be run on the turf at 11/2 miles, but it was switched to the Polytrack because of steady rain the past day and a half.
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American Graded Stakes Committee policy is that a race scheduled for the turf that gets switched to the main track after the closing of nominations is automatically downgraded one level for that running. The committee then reviews the race to see if it should have the original grade reinstated.
Whether or not the Sycamore ultimately goes down as his first graded-stakes win in his fourth U.S. start since coming over from Germany, it proved that Sanagas is starting to put things together.
"He's been quite quirky this horse," Motion said. "His first couple of races he did a couple of odd things. He was lugging quite badly when we first ran him at Arlington (on July 9) and the next time we ran him at Saratoga he was actually getting out. Today he really put it together. He ran straight and I thought a very professional race."
Sanagas came into the Sycamore off a fourth-place finish in the Grade II Bowling Green Handicap, and he had won on Aug. 5 in the John's Call Stakes at Saratoga, which was contested over the same distance as Thursday's race.
He was sent off as the 9-5 second choice in the six-horse field.
With Rajiv Maragh in the irons, Sanagas loped along on the outside path in fourth just off the flank of Center Divider through a half in :49.25 before he began his challenge just past the mile mark.
Sanagas swept up three wide coming into the stretch and wore down pacesetter Bim Bam on the inside to hit the wire in a track-record time of 2:39.40. The Lomitas gelding, owned by Andreas Jacobs, improved his record to six wins in nine career starts.
"He'd actually run on synthetics in Europe, and I think the farther he goes the better," Motion said. "I wanted to get ambitious with him this fall but the owners wanted to be conservative with him, and I'm glad they were."
Tahoe Lake was 21/4 lengths clear of Center Divider, who finished third as the 8-5 favorite.