50-1 shot Afternoon Stroll wins Keeneland stakes

She was on a surface she had never tried, running a distance beyond anything she had attempted and facing a caliber of horses superior to what she was accustomed to.

On paper, there wasn't much in Afternoon Stroll's favor heading into the Grade III Appalachian Stakes on Thursday.

But by the time the one-mile contest had concluded, the dark bay filly had a couple crucial scenarios swing her way.

Afternoon Stroll edged Hot Cha Cha in a determined stretch duel and then survived an objection lodged against her to pick up the first graded stakes win of her career in the $100,000 Appalachian on the turf at Keeneland.

Despite not finishing worst than fourth in her career, Afternoon Stroll was dismissed at odds of 50-1 as she stepped up against graded stakes company for the first time.

After rating in fourth in the nine-horse field down the backside, the daughter of Stroll — who was testing the turf and the one-mile distance for the first time — ranged up into contention around the far turn and took over the lead briefly for the stretch run.

"She had never been a mile, had never been two turns and I was scared she might not be able to pick it back up," said co-owner Ricky Claypool, who also bred the filly. "Thank God she did. I didn't expect to win, to be honest. But I thought we could be in the money."

Hot Cha Cha, with Orlando Mojica up, fought on the outside to grab a short advantage in midstretch only to have Afternoon Stroll come back again under Jamie Theriot to prevail by a nose in 1:37.67.

"She was kind of leaning on her left lead and I got her to switch and she gave me another gear," Theriot said.

Kent Desormeaux, who was aboard fourth-place finisher Our Dahlia, lodged an objection against Afternoon Stroll but it was disallowed.

Fast Tigress rallied from sixth to finish third.

Out of the Danzatore mare Gertie, Afternoon Stroll captured the Bassinet Stakes at River Downs last August. After finishing fourth in her season debut at Turfway Park on March 18, her connections took a hard look at her pedigree and opted to see if the turf would be more to her liking.

"She is by Stroll and when he went from the dirt to the grass he was a totally different horse," said Claypool, who owns Afternoon Stroll along with trainer Timothy Hamm. "And she has worked well on the grass."

The complexion of the Appalachian was altered just minutes before the race when California invader and expected favorite April Pride had to be scratched after kicking the stone wall in the paddock with her left hind leg.

"She kicked it solidly with her foot and I thought she stung it but as I'm saying that she's walking worse than she was initially," trainer James Cassidy said moments after the filly was scratched.

April Pride was reported to be eating and drinking well after the incident and an X-ray was scheduled to be performed.