Limousine Liberal, 9, just held on to win Saturday’s The Churchill Downs Stakes over Awesome Slew on the inside.
Katherine Ball’s homebred Limousine Liberal finally added that elusive graded stakes victory to his resume on Saturday, taking the lead at the head of the stretch under Jose Oritz in Saturday’s G2 The Churchill Downs Stakes and holding on over a traffic-compromised Awesome Slew by a head on the wire. A 5-year-old son of Successful Appeal, Limousine Liberal tracked the early pace through the seven-furlong contest, splashing home over a main track rated “muddy” to stop the clock in 1:23.22 for trainer Ben Colebrook.
“It set up for us,” Colebrook said. “It kind of went according to plan for once. The plan was just to follow the two speed horses and try to pounce. We’ve been waiting to get a wet track and it worked out. This horse has been showing up every time. It’s great that he’s finally a graded-stakes winner.”
As expected, the speedy Californian invader Masochistic flew out of the starting gate to take the lead as the field pounded down the chute toward the main track, in the midst of a pop-up thunderstorm that interrupted the day’s much-cherished afternoon sunshine. Tom’s Ready and Limousine Liberal also broke very sharply, but as they joined up with the main track it was longshot Bluegrass Singer who demanded the lead with a draining dash down the center of the course. Masochistic relinquished it grudgingly as Bluegrass Singer clocked two furlongs in 22.04 seconds, but then the muscly chestnut moved on to take back the front position.
Limousine Liberal earned the garden spot, 1 1/2 lengths off the leaders with clear running in third position. From there it was another several lengths back to the rest of the field, with late-running Awesome Slew well back of the pace as his preferred running style dictates.
Bluegrass Singer dropped back as Limousine Liberal ranged up three wide to challenge Masochistic at the three-eighths pole. The half-mile split of 44.35 seconds showed that the pace wasn’t slowing down, and at the head of the stretch it appeared to catch up with Masochistic. Limousine Liberal took over that lead convincingly, sprinting out to a two-length advantage.
Tom’s Ready came down the outside with a late rally, but appeared to hang a bit late nearing the sixteenth pole. Awesome Slew came with his patented late run, weaving through rivals down the lane, but at the eighth pole he had to check off heels slightly, then bull his way through a very narrow hole to find clear running. Once jockey Joel Rosario saw daylight ahead, he gunned Awesome Slew up the rail at the leading Limousine Liberal.
Awesome Slew made up an incredible amount of ground in the final 100 yards, but he ran out of ground to hit the wire just a head behind Limousine Liberal. Tom’s Ready was just able to hold third over Solid Wager.
“It was perfect,” said Limousine Liberal’s jockey Jose Ortiz. “He broke and I used him a little bit to get my position. When I saw (Bluegrass Singer) go with Masochistic, my chances increased a lot because I was in a good spot. When we entered in the stretch, he responded very well. It was a great training job by Ben (Colebrook). He told me to just try to sit two lengths off Masochistic. That’s what I did and it worked.”
Bred in Kentucky by his owners, Limousine Liberal had compiled a total of six graded stakes placings prior to his victory on the Kentucky Derby undercard. A number of allowance wins have boosted the gelding’s overall record to four wins, five seconds and a third from 14 starts, for earnings of over $ 780,000.
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