With a determined last-second move, House of Grace showed why jockey Mike Luzzi was determined to keep his date with her.
The Kenny McPeek-trained House of Grace probably earned herself a trip to Santa Anita for next month's Breeders' Cup when she rallied in deep stretch to defeat Smart Seattle by a nose in the $150,000, JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland on Thursday.
Originally scheduled for the turf, the 11⁄16-mile Jessamine was switched to the Polytrack because of heavy rains that have soaked Central Kentucky in recent days.
The change made little difference for the 2-year-old daughter of Limehouse as she advanced from seventh around the turn for home and came hard on the outside under Luzzi, who flew in from New York for the mount.
Smart Seattle shot through on the rail to open up by 2 lengths in the lane, but House of Grace wore her down in the final strides to cover the distance in 1:44.32.
"It's a privilege to ride at Keeneland in the first place and to come and win is more than great," said Luzzi, who rode House of Grace to victory in her career debut on Aug. 19. "It looked like (Smart Seattle) might be the winner but I had the horse and it was just a matter of getting there in time."
Hatheer was third, 31/4 lengths behind Smart Seattle.
After Luzzi guided House of Grace to a 5-length victory in her maiden triumph over the Saratoga turf, McPeek let his rider know that he wanted him on his filly in future races.
"I told him 'If you want to come, she's your mount and until she gets beat from something you did wrong, she's your mount,'" McPeek said. "He rode so perfectly that day."
Although House of Grace demonstrated she could handle the synthetic surface, McPeek said he is inclined to point her toward the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf rather than the Juvenile Fillies on the main track Nov. 6.
"I think she's better on turf," he said.