Genuine Devotion wins at Churchill

LOUISVILLE — A week ago, Genuine Devotion had a litany of suitors chasing her based simply on who her family was.

After Sunday's Grade III Locust Grove Handicap at Churchill Downs, the connections of the 4-year-old filly are bracing themselves for a whole new round of admirers.

Under skillful handling from 22-year-old jockey Alan Garcia, Genuine Devotion led at nearly every point of call and still had enough to hold off a late running Brownie Points and notch her first graded stakes victory in the one-mile Locust Grove Handicap on the turf on the final day of Churchill Downs' 52-day meeting.

Irish-bred Genuine Devotion might have been testing graded stakes company for the first time, but she already had a following after her 2-year-old half brother, Mastercraftsman, captured the Group II Railway Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland on June 29.

”I had 48 phone calls from people trying to buy her since her little brother won the Group 2 in Ireland last weekend,“ trainer ­Kiaran McLaughlin said via cell phone after Sunday's win. ”The goal (Sunday) was to get graded earnings and to see if she'll get a mile because there are a lot more options going a mile and further. We wanted to get graded earnings because she has become very valuable.“

In her first try running beyond 6 furlongs and just her second start of 2008, Genuine Devotion hustled to the front along the hedge out of post one and was 1 length clear of Bayou's Lassie as they ticked off the first quarter in :23.84.

Bayou's Lassie and Tears I Cry ranged up on the outside to challenge the daughter of Rock of Gibraltar as they reached the final turn, but Genuine Devotion found another gear and had spurted away to a 11/2 length lead in midstretch.

With the rest of the field spent, Brownie Points unleashed a determined rally on the far outside, but she fell a half length short as Genuine Devotion covered the distance in 1:35.76 over a firm turf.

”We were a little concerned about (the distance) but we thought she would get a mile okay,“ McLaughlin said. ”She's just a very talented filly and Alan did a great job trying to slow her down as much as he could and trying to save something for the finish.“

Multiple graded stakes winner Bayou's Lassie held for third.

Although it didn't match the magnitude of his stunning Belmont Stakes victory aboard Da' Tara in June, Sunday's Locust Grove was the first ever win for jockey Garcia at Churchill Downs.

”This is my first race ever at Churchill, I had never run here,“ a beaming Garcia said. ”I'm so excited. My filly was very comfortable today and I had a lot of horse.“

Owned by James Barry, Genuine Devotion entered the Locust Grove on a three-race win streak dating back to Sept. 15, all coming in turf sprints.

She broke her maiden by 93/4 lengths over the main track at Aqueduct on Dec. 31, 2006, and has now won five of eight career starts, with $275,725 in earnings.

”We have to think about (what's next). We have to weigh all the options,“ McLaughlin said. ”We were thinking about trying Polytrack or all-weather somewhere to see if she did like it because we are thinking about the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint with her.“

Although he finished third aboard Bayou's Lassie in the Locust Grove, jockey Robby Albarado had an outstanding Churchill meet that culminated in his clinching his first riding title at the Louisville track Sunday.

Albarado, the regular rider for Horse of the Year Curlin, finished with 73 victories, eight more than Miguel Mena.

Tom Amoss held off Steve Asmussen to claim his first outright trainer's title with 35 wins, while Ken and Sarah Ramsey locked up their 13th overall owners' title with 20 victories.