Before his start in Saturday’s Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, it had been more than two years since Bowies Hero had raced outside the state of California.
The non-monetary prize in the $1 million race would be a trip back home, a spot in next month’s Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita.
“We’ve always had the confidence in him,” said assistant trainer Joshua Flores. “Win and you’re in — we figured, ‘Why not take a shot at it?’ This race was real wide open. Anybody could have won this spot. We knew that if we could just stay out of trouble, we’d have a fair shot at it.”
Not far from the finish, it was indeed still anybody’s race.
Bowies Hero had several horses to beat when he moved wide — but clear — under jockey Flavien Prat into the stretch, and he did just that, catching 12-1 shot Diamond Oops just before the wire for the victory and Breeders’ Cup bid.
“I think about the eighth pole, I started to feel like we had a real good shot at it,” said Flores, assistant to trainer Phil D’Amato. “He’s a horse that’s gotta get moving. (Prat) kept him in the clear, and there was no trouble. That’s all we were hoping for — give him a fair chance.”
Bowies Hero — at 8-1 odds — beat Diamond Oops by three-quarters of a length. The second- through fifth-place finishers were a nose apart each, and two others in the 14-horse race were within a length of Bowies Hero, who earned the $600,000 winner’s share for his connections.
“I’ve been coming to Keeneland for years now, and that’s the first time I’ve gotten to take a picture here on the grass,” Flores said with a smile. “It’s really special to get a Grade 1, a win-and-you’re in. For a guy like (owner) Mark Martinez, who’s put so much money and time into the game … we’re just happy we can do this for him.”
Trainer Chad Brown had the winner in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday, but it wasn’t the contender many expected.
Brown’s Rushing Fall went off as the 6-5 favorite in the 13-horse field and was going for her fifth victory in five starts at the Lexington racetrack. Instead, it was Uni — the 3-1 second choice — that won the $400,000 win-and-you’re-in race for a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf next month at Santa Anita.
Uni was 11th at the halfway point in the 1-mile race and ninth with a quarter-mile to go. The 4-year-old filly rallied under jockey Joel Rosario to beat Juliet Foxtrot by 2 ½ lengths.
“Pretty much typical Uni. Gets a nice trailing position, and when Joel asks, she goes,” said Whit Beckman, assistant trainer to Brown, who was at Belmont Park on Saturday.
Uni won in a course record time of 1:32.87.
“She’s better when she can just kind of find her spot out the back — get in that comfortable rhythm,” Beckman said. “In my opinion, she’s one of the better milers in the country — colts or fillies. When she finds the seam, she goes. She is tough as nails out there.”
Rushing Fall, usually forwardly placed in the early going, raced from midpack and finished fourth, more than 5 lengths behind the winner. It was just her third defeat in 11 career starts and her first showing outside of the top two.
Owner Bob Edwards said afterward that he would talk to Brown over the weekend to discuss the next step for Rushing Fall, who he said might be sent to winter in Florida with the plan of coming back to the track for a 5-year-old season in 2020.
“Can you be disappointed with a horse that won two Grade 1s this year? Nah,” Edwards said. “It would have been nice. I would’ve loved to win another race here at Keeneland. It’s a great place to win a race. But I’m not disappointed with the horse at all.
“I’m happy the horse is sound, and we get to fight another battle.”
Grade 2 winners
▪ Spiced Perfection stumbled at the start but rallied to win the $250,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes by a head over 10-1 shot Dawn the Destroyer. “She recovered pretty quick and we kept tracking the speed,” jockey Javier Castellano said of his winner. “We got through a little, tiny hole at the eighth pole. The filly was very brave to go through that hole and get it done.”
▪ Stubbins came from last to first to win the $200,000 Woodford Stakes at 7-1 odds under Joel Rosario, winning by three-quarters of a length over Leinster. Imprimis — the 7-5 favorite — was another length and a half back in third.
A safe day
Tragedy struck twice in back-to-back races during Friday’s opening day at Keeneland. Stella d’Oro was euthanized after breaking down in the fourth race, and Fast Dreamer had to be euthanized after breaking down in the fifth race — a somber start to the Fall Meet.
There were no such incidents Saturday.
Portal — a 5-year-old gelding — was eased up in the third race and vanned off the track, but that was described as simply a “courtesy ride” back to the barn area.