Lady, Thatcher prevail at Churchill on Thanksgiving
Runner-up in last November’s Cardinal H. (G3) in her only prior graded attempt, the Tony Granitz trainee was once again entered in that contest over Churchill’s Matt Winn turf last Saturday. But Granitz made the call to scratch and point for the bigger Thanksgiving prize on the dirt, and in this case, fortune really did favor the brave.
The Falls City suddenly became anyone’s game, between the slow early pace and the surprising no-shows by favorite Go Maggie Go and Include Betty. The two 5-2 chances were the last two home, with Go Maggie Go a tailed-off last in the field of 11.
Lady Fog Horn, who was bet down to 6-1 off a 15-1 morning line, was in the perfect place to capitalize. Parked in third early by regular rider Albin Jimenez, she burst through to defeat the 9-2 Streamline by 1 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:50.85 for 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track.
Walkabout, last at the six-furlong mark and spun out wide for the drive, rallied boldly for third at 23-1. Pacesetter She Mabee Wild, a 43-1 longshot, held fourth after posting soft fractions of :24.42, :49.18, and 1:14.27.
Lady Fog Horn advanced her resume to 22-13-3-2, $764,553.
Quotes from Churchill
Trainer Tony Granitz on Lady Fog Horn: “We’re excited. We’re even letting the jockey (Albin Jiminez) stay at our house! It was a tough call scratching her last week because we had run second in the Cardinal Handicap last year and she was doing so well. We were trying to make the right decision and it was a last minute one. Albin couldn’t ride her last Saturday; he had to ride in a stakes race in Ohio so I said, ‘I want her regular rider to come and ride her,’ and we knew today he could do that. It was a tough call and this was a big move for me to scratch her out of the race last week to put her in here.”
Jockey Albin Jiminez on his first graded win: “She always breaks real quickly. I saw my competition from Indiana, number 5 (She Mabee Wild), she beat me in Indiana once earlier this year and so I saw her take the lead and I was sitting in behind nice and easy. My horse came down the stretch nice and strong. I thank God first and a thank you to the owner and the trainer and all the people that are involved.”
In a neat turn of events for the historically minded, a “Lady” was followed by a “Thatcher,” as Thatcher Street turned back Pleuven to record a first graded score in the $100,000 River City H. (G3).
Second in the 2015 River City to front-running Heart to Heart, the 7-1 chance got even less pace to run at this year, but he would not be denied. Regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. kept him in striking range early, and got the jump on familiar foe Pleuven, who threatened mightily in the lane. But Thatcher Street fought back gallantly to repel the French-bred by a half-length, negotiating 1 1/8 miles on the good turf course in 1:51.45.
In the process, Thatcher Street handed trainer Ian Wilkes his third win on a milestone day. Wilkes entered Thanksgiving with 499 career wins as a trainer. War Stroll made it an even 500 in the 4TH race at Churchill, Bird Song added to the celebration in the 9TH, and Thatcher Street made it a hat trick.
The 2-1 favorite The Pizza Man, too far back early off the tepid pace and not set down in earnest until turning into the stretch, was in a poor tactical position. Thus the $2 million-earner deserves extra credit for his strong sustained run to grab third and get beaten a length for it all. His performance looks even better since he was lugging the top weight of 124pounds, conceding eight to Thatcher Street and six to Pleuven.
Campaigned by co-breeder Randy Bloch in partnership with Phil Milner, John Seiler, and Amtietan LLC, Thatcher Street has now earned $388,832 from his 26-5-7-8 line. The Street Sense gelding has been taking turns with Pleuven, edging him in the Opening Verse and finishing third to the same rival in the Wise Dan (G2) during the spring meet.
Quotes from Churchill
Trainer Ian Wilkes on Thatcher Street: “He loves this turf course and he really brings his A-game every time. It’s great to have such nice horses. We’ve got real nice horses and that’s what it’s all about. They’re all tremendous, they’ve run real well and I’m just so proud of them.”
Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. on Thatcher Street: “He obviously loves the Churchill turf course here and it’s a little bit beat up this late in the fall but we got him out on the better part of it and he showed today that he’s the best horse. He ran real great. He just seems to carry himself better here. Over at Keeneland he was a little fresh that day (when fourth in an October 26 allowance) and he kind of got away from us and went a little too quick that time, but today he got into a nice rhythm and when (jockey Corey) Lanerie (aboard Pleuven) came to him and held him off real easily.”
Jockey Corey Lanerie on runner-up Pleuven: “As soon as I got up to that horse (Thatcher Street) to his blinker, he fought back as soon as he saw me. I thought I’d have to worry that The Pizza Man would come flying and he (Thatcher Street) came back and got me. But my horse ran great and I don’t think there was anything I could have done different.”
Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan on third-placer The Pizza Man: “Other than having him trying to maneuver over that soft turf course, I didn’t have any problems. That turf was pretty soft for him today and he got back a little bit farther than I really wanted him to. I had to ride him through it a bit and hold his head up in certain spots, but he tried all the way. He’s a quality horse and even if (the course) wasn’t to his liking, he still gave a great effort.”
Photos courtesy of Churchill Downs/Coady Photography