No matter the surface and no matter the time between starts, Deceptive Vision never fails to lay herself down and deliver a thoroughly admirable effort on the racetrack.
In her first outing since last October, the 5-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy was her typical, gritty self — even if she did give jockey John Velazquez fits during the stretch drive. After swinging out three wide to make a run in the lane, Deceptive Vision had enough to withstand a late rally from Lunar Surge to take the Grade III, $100,000 Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare Stakes by a head at Keeneland on Friday.
In nine career starts, Deceptive Vision has never been worse than third and has a knack for holding her form even off a layoff. She was already a graded stakes winner on turf, having won the Grade II Canadian Stakes last Sept. 14, and was making her first start since running third in the Grade I E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine on Oct. 19.
While rust wasn't the problem for the bay mare in her seasonal debut, Velazquez said she almost got herself beat when she got distracted by the tire tracks on the surface once she made the lead and never saw Lunar Surge coming back on her along the inside.
"She got to the eighth pole, put her ears up, she saw the tire tracks and started waiting," Velazquez said. "She never saw the other horse. She was just kind of looking with her ears up and I'm trying to keep her attention. But she was just in a gallop."
Owned and bred by Sam-Son Farm, Deceptive Vision had won twice on the dirt back in 2013 but was sidelined exactly a year because of injury from Feb. 22, 2013 until Feb. 22, 2014.
She won her comeback race on the turf off that hiatus and had been on the grass ever since before Friday's return outing.
Her comfort level in her return to dirt was evident early on as she saved ground on the inside in fourth while Twenty in One and Blue Violet prompted each other through fractions of 24.21 and 48.16.
After fighting to find room between horses on the final turn, Velazquez tipped her out and let her roll to the front of the seven-horse field, hitting the wire in 1:44.34 for the 11⁄16-mile distance over a fast track.
Blue Violet held for third.
"She runs good fresh and she tries every time," trainer Malcolm Pierce said. "She's a very talented filly and Johnny said she was just waiting on other horses. I thought she got nipped at the wire but I'm certainly glad at the outcome."
Deceptive Vision's versatility to handle either surface gives Pierce options going forward, though he feels she may even be a tick better on the grass.
"We talked about maybe going back to the turf at Woodbine, but the dirt now becomes more of an option with her," Pierce said. "We'd like to get three starts in Canada with her and hopefully be back here in the fall (for the Breeders' Cup)."