Ten years after the fact, Stewart Elliott's career has been defined by the success he had in a certain race in Kentucky.
Since shifting his tack to Keeneland this spring meet, the veteran jockey has again seen the Bluegrass state provide a monster boost.
The man best known as the rider for 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones continued his quest to become the leading rider at this spring's Keeneland meet Friday as Elliott guided 8-1 shot Sisterly Love to an upset victory in the Grade III, $100,000 Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare Stakes over the Polytrack.
Having primarily been based in Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic circuit, the 49-year-old Elliott is riding full-time in Kentucky for the first time. A major catalyst behind that decision was the desire to put himself in position to get on the better horses — and he's been taking every opportunity given to him by the throat.
At the conclusion of Friday's card, Elliott trailed only Julien Leparoux in the Keeneland jockey standings, with 10 victories to Leparoux's 15.
"I was hoping to get off to a good start here and have some luck, but I couldn't be more happy with the way things are going," Elliott said after guiding Sisterly Love to her second win of this Keeneland meet, having also been aboard for her front-running score in an allowance race on opening day. "I have ridden on the Polytrack a little bit before and always had good luck on it. But it's getting on the horses, the horses are the ones who do the running."
Though a graded stakes winner herself previously, Sisterly Love and the rest of the Doubledogdare field all figured to be chasing multiple Grade I winner Emollient, the 3-5 favorite in the 10-horse bunch.
Emollient was the queen of Keeneland last year, winning both the Grade I Ashland and Grade I Spinster for owner Juddmonte Farms. However, Sisterly Love put the heat on Emollient throughout, staying glued to the rail while pushing her through fractions of :23.91 and :47.35 before edging away in the stretch and holding off long-shot runner-up Moment in Dixie by a neck.
"Even though she was there, it still was at least a comfortable enough pace that she could be effective," said Norman Casse, assistant to his father, Mark Casse, trainer of Sisterly Love. "That filly (Emollient) came to her throat latch and we turned her away. So long as she's comfortable, she runs a big race. She's actually a really talented filly."
Final time for the 11⁄16-mile race was 1:43.82.
Owned by Gary Barber, 6-year-old Sisterly Love earned her seventh win in 14 career starts — not to mention turning the tables on her fourth-place effort behind Emollient in last year's Spinster.
"I think (jockey Mike Smith) had to use her a lot early in the race and she just got tired," Garrett O'Rourke, manager of Juddmonte Farms, said of Emollient fading to finish third. "Maybe he had to use her more than what she would have liked. She got beaten by a better filly on the day, but there were no hard-luck stories."