Liam's Map far ahead of BC Dirt Mile class
Unexpectedly breaking slow from post 3, the gray son of Unbridled's Song found himself in the unusual position of racing behind rivals and surrounded by others in the second flight. Bottled up for the better part of seven furlongs, Liam's Map finally found room to advance on the outside turning for home, inhaled second choice Lea in the short stretch and drew off to win by 2 1/2 lengths in a time of 1:34.54. That was a new Keeneland track record at a distance that had not been used until this fall.
Owned by Teresa Viola Racing, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Javier Castellano, Liam's Map paid $3.
This was the eighth and final start for the speedy gray, who now retires to Lane's End Farm for stud duty. He won six times and placed second twice for earnings of $1,358,940.
Liam's Map's first stakes win came at Gulfstream last December in the $100,000 Harlan's Holiday. His next stakes appearance came in the August 8 Whitney (G1) at Saratoga, where he was edged by Honor Code in the final strides after producing remarkable internal fractions. He was less in a hurry over the same track in the Woodward (G1) the following month, which he won by 4 3/4 lengths.
A number of observers felt Liam's Map deserved a shot in Saturday's $5 million Classic (G1) on Saturday, at the very least thinking he would have provided American Pharoah a target in that 1 1/4-mile event. Instead, it appears the Triple Crown winner could be the one setting the pace.
Connections of Liam's Map decided some weeks ago to point to the Dirt Mile instead. Their decision was justified in terrific style Friday, but the manner in which he won demonstrates he is not necessarily one-dimensional in running style and possibly could've gotten 10 furlongs.
The older dirt male division will be poorer for Liam's Map's absence next year. Joining him in the stallion ranks will be Lea, the 2014 Donn H. (G1) winner who placed in his title defense of that race in February and later earned minor checks in the Dubai World Cup (G1), Stephen Foster H. (G1) and Woodbine Mile (G1) prior to this effort. He goes home to Claiborne Farm, which co-bred and co-owns him along with Adele Dilschneider.
Third-placed finisher Red Vine and the rest of the field finished well behind the top pair. Class told in this edition of the Dirt Mile, and at its head was Liam's Map.
(Liam's Map photo: Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos)