Style Icon, the 5-2 favorite in Keeneland’s fifth race Friday, apparently decided she didn’t need jockey Jose Ortiz for the 1 3/16 miles on the turf.
The 3-year-old filly reared up and dumped Ortiz on the walk out on the dirt and took off down the front stretch until outriders caught up with her at the edge of the grandstand.
“She reared up and I came out of the saddle, but luckily they had her and we could run the race,” Ortiz said.
Both Ortiz and Style Icon appeared fine as the jockey jogged up to meet her and hopped back on. The crowd’s concern quickly turned to cheers.
“I know the filly and have ridden her a lot of times. I just gave her a good gallop and she was very good after that. She ran good.”
Once under way for real, Style Icon brought the fans to a roar as she looked to be taking command after the turn home. But Corey Lanerie and the late-charging second-choice Sippin Kitten (3-1) outkicked her home. More Fun Again, a 9-1 shot also went by for second with Style Icon holding on for third in the $74,000 maiden.
“My horse settled nice in the pocket and was just traveling for whenever I got a seam to come through,” Lanerie said. “When I called on her she just fired right through.”
Lanerie didn’t see Ortiz get dumped but did notice Style Icon run off. “He was lucky. I know he didn’t want her to get loose, because she was one of the favorites.”
Weathering the meet
Snow. Really? The Spring Meet didn’t open under the greatest circumstances, but when the sun turned up, so did the crowds.
Keeneland finished its 16 days of racing under picture-perfects skies, brilliant sunshine and temperatures in the upper 60s as 18,690 were on hand Friday for the 10-race card, highlighted by the Grade 3, $150,000 Bewitch Stakes.
It was quite a contrast from the 14,269 that endured the chill of Toyota Blue Grass Stakes Day when a dusting of snow covered the grounds when the gates opened. For perspective, 32,610 came to see last year’s Blue Grass. The attendance record of 40,617 was set on Blue Grass Day in 2012.
While the Blue Grass gate was down, the all-sources handle set a new high with $22,634,861, topping the previous record of $21,736,983 set on April 9, 2016.
The meet featured the highest Friday turnout in the track’s history on Maker’s Mark Day on April 13. Warmer weather coincided with a near-statewide school cancellation as teachers protested the General Assembly in Frankfort, possibly boosting Keeneland’s turnout with families looking for a fun day out.
On April 21, Keeneland had another banner day with a crowd of 37,378, marking the track's fifth-highest single-day attendance.
Overall, attendance was only down slightly from the 2017 Spring Meet: 250,475 this year to last spring's 252,247. And average daily attendance was just shy, as well, 15,655 to 16,816. On-track wagering this spring was $17,457,750 compared to $17,668,979 last spring. Average daily on-track handle was $1,091,109 versus $1,177,932 in 2017.
Marc Detampel, G. Watts Humphrey Jr., and Ken and Sarah Ramsey tied in the owners standings with four wins each.
Wesley Ward and Brad Cox tied for leading trainer with 13 wins apiece.
And Florent Geroux rode to 19 victories to earn his first Keeneland riding title, edging out Jose Ortiz by one.
Mom's On Strike pulled an upset of the heavy favorite in Friday's lone stakes race, the Grade 3, $150,000 Bewitch.
The Joe Sharp trained 5-year-old mare, third choice at 9-2, swung wide out of the final turn and pulled away to a 3 1/4 length win over the 3-5 Daddy's Lil Darling in the mile and a half on turf that clocked in at 2:30.02. Ickymasho (14-1) took third.
“With her running style, we just figured she needed more ground." Sharp said. "The stretch here at Keeneland is nice and long. Last time (at Fair Grounds on March 24, a fourth-place finish), the ground was pretty firm. There was a little more give in the ground today; I think that definitely helped her.”
Mom's On Strike paid $11, $4, and $3.20, Daddy's Lil Darling, $2.40, $2.10 and Ickymasho, $4.80.
It was the first graded stakes win in North America for jockey Adam Beschizza. It was Mom's On Strike's fifth win in six starts.
Next up: Oaks and Derby
While live racing moves down the road to Churchill Downs, fans not wanting to hassle with a trip to Louisville can enjoy what’s become a vibrant tradition at Keeneland on Oaks and Derby days next Friday and Saturday.
Admission is free on Oaks Day and $5 on Derby Day for those who want to picnic in the paddock and walking ring and watch on the video boards there or on the infield tote board from the grandstand. Keeneland’s private dining rooms will also be open for reservations each day.
Keeneland’s tailgating spot, The Hill, will be open on Derby Day.
Live music and children’s activities are also planned for each day. Visit Keeneland.com for more information.