Given his standing as one the most widely respected and well-liked horsemen in the sport, trainer Graham Motion has seldom taken on the role of villain.
With jockey Julien Leparoux seeking a record-setting seventh win on the Keeneland card Friday, however, the affable Motion was all too pleased to see his filly Pachattack play the spoiler in the final strides of the Grade III Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare Stakes.
The day most certainly belonged to the red-hot Leparoux and his record-tying six wins from eight mounts. But with about a furlong separating the former Eclipse Award winner from a solo spot in Keeneland history, jockey Rajiv Maragh and Pachattack stole a little thunder for themselves when they outfought Leparoux and his graded stakes-winning mount Kathmanblu in a prolonged stretch drive to prevail by a neck in the $100,000 Doubledogdare.
Leparoux came into the day with a meet-leading 12 victories, and he tied both Craig Perret and Randy Romero for most wins on a Keeneland card when he booted home the winners of the first, second, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth races Friday.
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Kathmanblu, who was making her first start since October, did all she could to put Leparoux over the top when she broke clear on the lead and carved out an opening half-mile in :48.37 with 3-5 favorite Pachattack sitting about a length back on the inside path.
Though both fillies were coming off layoffs — with Pachattack having not started since running third in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic on Nov. 4 — each showed tons of grit when Pachattack angled out just past the half and engaged Kathmanblu entering the final turn.
With only a couple of right-handed hits from Maragh, Pachattack dug in gamely over a stubborn Kathmanblu inside, edging to the lead in the final strides to cover the 11⁄16-mile distance in 1:43.75 on the main track with La Gran Bailadora coming home third.
"Julien had a lot of horse at the top of the stretch and I was kind of worried that we weren't going to get by," Motion said. "But Rajiv knows her so well, and he said she kept on plugging. It crossed my mind (Julien's record) for sure, but we were going to deny him."
It was the first time Motion had sent out Pachattack, who was bought by Flaxman Holdings for $1.2 million at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton November mixed sale.
The 6-year-old daughter of Pulpit won the Grade III Arlington Matron under the care of trainer Gerard Butler in May and actually chased fellow Motion trainee Aruna to a second-place finish in the Grade I Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland in October.
"I think she probably caught the eye of Maria (Niarchos of Flaxman Holdings) when Aruna ran against her," said Motion, who has not decided on Pachattack's next start but said he wouldn't rule out putting her on the grass at some point. "How lucky am I that she decided to keep this filly in training for another year because not many people would have done that."
Not too many have accomplished what Leparoux did Friday, either. Having already announced plans to ride in New York this summer rather than his usual base at Churchill Downs, earning a fifth Keeneland Spring Meet title and eighth Keeneland riding crown overall would hold special meaning for the native of France.
"I was really thinking I could get (the record)," Leparoux said. "When I could see who was outside of me, I knew it was Rajiv so I knew it was a going to be a fight to the finish.
"I love Keeneland and I love Kentucky and this is my last full-time Kentucky meet. But I'll be back here and hopefully I can still win more."