Jack Swain III’s homebred Miss Ella made a bold move to take the lead in mid-stretch of Friday’s G3 Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes at Keeneland, then had just enough left to hold off the late rush of Fair Point to win by a neck at the wire. The 4-year-old daughter of Exchange Rate, ridden by Joel Rosario, covered 5 1/2 furlongs over the firm turf course in 1:04.52 for trainer Graham Motion.
“Great that this (race) was graded today,” Motion said. “This filly, she’s very tough. She can run on either surface. It’s ironic that this is her first win on the turf because I think she’s actually better on the turf.”
Melaleuca left the gates on top, jumping out to a three-quarter length lead over Full Tap down the backstretch. With Scatter Gun and Everything Lovely racing in tandem behind them, the leaders sped through a first quarter in :22.17. Favored Fair Point was traveling near the rear of the 12-horse field, while Miss Ella was racing in eighth early on. Heading through the far turn, Full Tap moved up to challenge Melaleuca for the lead, and the two turned for home together as Miss Ella was forced wide.
Full Tap got the lead at the head of the lane, but was run down on the outside by Miss Ella with an eighth of a mile left to run. Fair Point was moving best of all late in the race, but ran out of racetrack and had to settle for second, just a neck behind Miss Ella. Smoke Signals got up to nose out Full Tap for the show position.
“I had a perfect trip, a beautiful trip,” Rosario said. “It looked like they were going very nice up front. I was just behind them, hoping to make one run.”
Bred in Kentucky by her owner, Miss Ella broke her maiden at first asking as a sophomore. In her second career start, she went on to win the G2 Beaumont Stakes. Since then, she has won a pair of listed stakes races and placed in another three. The Franklin County is Miss Ella’s second graded stakes win, bringing her overall record to five wins from 13 starts with earnings of nearly $ 440,000.
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