Sights and sounds on Keeneland’s opening day
A year after making her North American debut, Ickymasho is a stakes winner. The 7-year-old mare sprinted to a 5 1/2-length lead, then held on for a one-length victory in the Grade 3, $150,000 Bewitch Stakes on the final day of Keeneland’s Spring Meet on Friday.
After 30 starts in Europe, Ickymasho ran her first race on American soil in last year’s Bewitch and finished third. She entered Friday’s race coming off runner-up finishes in two graded stakes races at Gulfstream Park in March, and finally broke through by besting 2-1 favorite Gaining, who finished second. Coachwhip, at 26-1, finished nearly six lengths behind Gaining in third.
Bewitch jockey Jose Ortiz held her back until late in the 1 1/2-mile race. Winning trainer Roger Attfield said he was “delighted” when Ortiz pushed her to the front about a minute-and-a-half in.
“I thought she’d either be on the lead or second early in the race, and I was a little concerned that she might be on the lead the whole way, which always bothers me a little bit,” Attfield said. “After he turned into the stretch and he made that decision, I said, ‘thank goodness, that’s a really good move there.’ … When he took command of the race and down the backside she opened up enough that I felt reasonably comfortable I thought, ‘please, God, don’t catch her now.’ She’s a gutsy mare. We’re just delighted with her.”
Florent Geroux, who rode Gaining, saluted Ortiz’s winning ride.
“There was a (slow) pace early and then mid-race Ickymasho went to the lead and that was probably the winning move,” Geroux said. “In the stretch, I thought I could win and I felt like the leader was coming back to me. But I had too many lengths to make up.”
Ickymasho gave Attfield his fourth win in the Bewitch. She returned $6.80, $3.40 and $2.80 and increased her career earnings to $283,403 and now has nine wins, 11 second-place and four third-place finishes in 39 starts.
The chase for the Spring Meet jockey, trainer and owner titles all went down to the wire, remaining undecided until the final day of racing.
Geroux earned his second leading-rider title with 15 wins. He also won the title during the 2018 Spring Meet. Geroux had a pair of three-win days on April 13 and 19, and his biggest victory of the meet came in the Stonestreet Lexington Stakes aboard Owendale.
Wesley Ward won 11 races to capture his fifth leading trainer title, having previously won Spring Meet titles in 2012, 2017 and 2018 and the Fall Meet title in 2012. Brad Cox finished second with 10 victories and Chad Brown won nine times to finish third.
Kirk Wycoff, Kosta Hronis, Khalid Abdullah and Robert J. Edwards tied for leading owner honors with three wins apiece.