Watershed (Bernardini) wins the Ben Ali (G3) at Keeneland on 4.15.2017. Paco Lopez up, Kiaran McLaughlin trainer, Godolphin Racing owner.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Godolphin Racing were having a grand afternoon at Keeneland Racecourse on Saturday, winning both a maiden special weight and an allowance race early on the card. In the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes, Godolphin homebred Watershed came flying late in the stretch to earn his first career stakes victory by about two lengths under jockey Paco Lopez, giving McLaughlin and Godolphin their third win on the card. A 5-year-old son of Bernardini, Watershed covered nine furlongs over the fast main track in 1:50.92.
“(Jockey) Paco (Lopez) rode a great race,” McLaughlin said. “It’s always wonderful to win here in our hometown, Lexington, and at Keeneland. It’s a great crowd, great people and it’s fun to win.”
Conquest Enforcer jumped out of the starting gates very quickly in the Ben Ali, sprinting to the lead in an attempt to move over toward the rail from his outside post position (7). Bird Song would have to take the two-path around the clubhouse turn, tracking the pace a length behind Conquest Enforcer. Taketothestreets was at the rail in third, with Scuba traveling four-wide into the first turn to gain fourth position. Blofeld held on to his position at the fence in fifth, and Watershed was unhurried to be in the sixth position two paths off the rail in the early going.
Conquest Enforcer set moderate early fractions of :23.95 and :47.17 as Bird Song kept close tabs on him from second. Watershed was well-handled by Lopez to be tucked in between horses all the way down the backstretch. As Taketothestreets began to weaken approaching the far turn, Lopez was able to move Watershed up into fourth without much effort, staying just off the rail through the five-sixteenths pole. Up front, Bird Song took over from a tiring Conquest Enforcer, the burst out to nearly a three-length lead at the head of the lane.
Watershed stayed inside of Scuba as he moved into third at the quarter pole, then had to go outside of Conquest Enforcer to get a clear run at the leading Bird Song. Lopez did not force the horse to make a sharp curve in the late stages of the far turn, allowing him to drift a bit wide into the stretch while maintaining his momentum.
Bird Song shortened stride just a bit at the eighth pole, and Watershed just kept on grinding to get his neck in front at the sixteenth pole. From there, Watershed and Lopez cruised clear with ease, galloping under the wire about two lengths in front of the field. Eagle came from the rear of the field to just nose out Bird Song for the place, and Blofeld was up for fourth.
“I had a decent trip,” said jockey Robby Albarado, aboard runner up Eagle. “I had to go pretty wide around the turn, turning for home. He wasn’t giving me what I needed inside, so I went around with him and he ran hard. He ran down some nice horses today to get up for place.”
Bred in Kentucky, Watershed is out of a winning daughter of Dubai Millennium. He broke his maiden at first asking in August of his 3-year-old year, then finished a good fourth in the G1 King’s Bishop. The horse earned his first Group placing at Meydan in the spring of his 4-year-old year, then returned to the United States where he was tried both on turf and the dirt for several starts. Watershed got his first stakes win in his 14th career start with the Ben Ali, improving his career record to five wins and earnings of over $ 400,000.
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