For any Thoroughbred owner, there is little that compares with watching one's horse earn a coveted graded-stakes triumph.
When the horse in question is one you've raised since birth, the excitement is heightened all the more.
Former Kentucky Governor Brereton Jones watched his homebred filly Check the Label earn her first graded-stakes triumph Thursday when she held off a late challenge from Bay to Bay to win the Grade III, $100,000 Appalachian Stakes on the turf before a crowd of 10,387 at Keeneland.
Out of the Mazel Trick mare Don't Trick Her, Check the Label had not won in four starts since capturing a 1-mile allowance race on the turf at Churchill Downs on November 11. However, the daughter of Stormin Fever was beaten by only a length while running fourth in the Grade III Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 6.
Coming off the final turn in the 1-mile Appalachian, Check the Label advanced from third under jockey Julien Leparoux to take over the lead from pacesetter Rose Catherine en route to covering the distance in 1:34.87 over a course rated firm.
"Obviously we're very happy," Jones said. "She is out of one of our best female families, we feel, and it's a family we've been developing for the last 20 years on the farm. She looks like she wants to go ever further and will run more than the mile. She's always trying."
Rose Catherine, the 3-to-5 favorite and runner-up in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, assumed her usual spot on the lead after breaking from the rail, but she was pressed through fractions of :23.07 and :46.02 by Go Ask Alex just to her outside.
Though the daughter of Speightstown tired in the lane, Rose Catherine held for third, 43/4 lengths behind runner-up Bay to Bay.
"Most of her races she won't have to go that fast," said Garrett Gomez, jockey of Rose Catherine. "Hopefully she'll move up after this."
Trained by Graham Motion, Check the Label earned her third win in 10 career starts.
"To win a graded race for the Governor at Keeneland, it doesn't get any better than that," Motion said. "We wanted to win a graded stakes with (Check the Label) so the first mission is achieved."