The last time jockey Marlon St. Julien wore Godolphin Racing’s royal blue silks, he was finishing seventh in the 2000 Kentucky Derby aboard Curule. Saturday at Ellis Park in a pinch-hit role, St. Julien guided Chicago-based Innovative Idea to a half-length victory over Emmajestic in the Grade 3 Groupie Doll Stakes.
It was a day when many of Ellis’ jockeys were riding on the stakes-laden cards in West Virginia and Louisiana. With the Groupie Doll attracting a capacity field of 12 fillies and mares, trainer Eoin Harty was having a hard time coming up with a jockey. He had the venerable Jon Court at entry time, but then needed a jockey when Athena was scratched, letting Court’s other mount Improv into the field.
“It was an awesome pickup,” St. Julien said. “The last time I rode these silks was in the Kentucky Derby 16 years ago. I guess it was meant to happen. I was fortunate enough to get the mount.”
Harty said he knew two days earlier that Conquest Curlgirl was likely to scratch, which would free up St. Julien to ride Prairie Meadows’ Iowa Distaff winner.
“So I knew I had him, and I’ve had a lot of luck with Marlon in the past,” he said.
Fioretti, the 2015 Groupie Doll runner-up, spurted to the lead from post 11, with Innovative Idea a length or two back and Improv adding pressure from the outside. Innovative Idea budged past Fioretti with an eighth-mile to go, but Emmajestic was charging hard, with favored Ahh Chocolate also coming on.
Innovative Idea held on while covering the mile in 1:36.33. Ahh Chocolate, a multiple graded-stakes winner, looked like she might cruise to the lead but had to settle for finishing another 1 1/4 lengths back in third, edging Pangburn. Fioretti wound up fourth, followed by Kathballu, Crown D’ Oro, You Bought Her, Academic Break, Engaginglee and the tiring Improv.
“I thought I had them,” jockey Chris Landeros said of Ahh Chocolate. “She ran hard but I don’t know. I thought she’d kick on a little better.”
Doyle, who on Friday resumed riding for the first time since shattering her collarbone in a May 27 spill, lodged a foul claim against St. Julien, saying she’d been impeded leaving the quarter pole. The stewards determined there was no interference. Said Harty: “You can’t blame her for taking a shot. I’d have done the same thing.”
Emmajestic was eighth early in a race which saw some bumping out of the mile chute on the first turn.
Said Doyle: “We got a bit of a bump coming out of the gate, took us off our stride. But to be honest, it put us the right position. I knew there was plenty of pace in the race. So we just tracked them from the inside. I thought as long as I kept the rail and traveled good and got a clear, she’d be in with a shot and save as much ground as possible. Just coming around the turn past the quarter pole, the winner just started coming in, edging in on top of us. That’s where I lost my momentum for a couple of strides and had to wait. Then the winner pulled back off me and I was able to get a run through. It got her really competitive. She was a tough, game filly. She ran a huge race.”
Leigh Bentley, assistant trainer to Michelle Lovell, was thrilled with Emmajestic’s performance. “She ran super,” she said. “She ran a great race.”
Innovative Idea paid $ 14.80 as the fourth choice in the field of 11.
“My instructions were to shake her up away from there,” St. Julien said. “Speed has been holding all day, so to keep her close. And I did. They were going moderately fast. I mean, she’s a good filly, to take over those fractions and then really finish up, she did a great job. Very excited.”
Innovative Idea’s trip was a lot better than Harty’s. Because of the vehicle fire on the U.S. 41 Ohio River bridge, traffic was backed up so far that it took Harty more than two hours to get from the Evansville airport, normally a 15-minute drive.
The diminutive Innovative Idea, a daughter of 2006 Preakness winner and 3-year-old champion Bernardini, now is 6-3-2 in 15 starts, earning $ 217,443 with the $ 58,163 payday. She won an allowance race at Tampa earlier in the year then was beaten 10 lengths in both Keeneland’s Grade 3 Doubledogdare and the Grade 3 Arlington Matron.
Harty said she might have been overmatched in those races, “but throw them out and she’s been a real consistent, hard-knocking filly. She ran a very similar race at Prairie Meadows. This win was huge. She was stakes-placed at 3 and now is a multiple stakes-winner and a graded stakes winner at 4. That does just wonders for the family and everybody concerned.”
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