By Dick Downey
Connections quotes by Jennie Rees
Photo by Reed Palmer Photography
The initial running of the 6 1/2-furlong, $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Sprint Stakes, the world's richest prep for the new Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, was easily won by the filly Moonlight Romance, the second horse to win at the meet after last running at Royal Ascot.
The race was marred when Chattel, ridden by Kendrick Carmouche, went down in the stretch. Sovereign Impact, who finished third, was disqualified by stewards and placed last among the finishers for interfering with Chattel, who was euthanized on the track after fracturing his right shoulder. Carmouche was loaded into an ambulance and taken to TriStar Skyline Medical Center in north Nashville for further evaluation after saying he was experiencing leg pain.
Trained by Wesley Ward, Moonlight Romance was last seen finishing 13th of 28 in the Windsor Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 23. Ward also campaigns Bound for Nowhere, who won the $750,000 Tourist Mile Stakes at the track last Saturday after finishing a close third at Royal Ascot in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
Jose Ortiz was aboard Moonlight Romance for his second win on the day.
Moonlight Romance was always in contention and tracked Sovereign Impact through initial fractions of 23.20 and 47.40 until pouncing to the lead in upper stretch. With a furlong left in the race, she led by four lengths and coasted on to win by three. She was timed in 1:17.91.
Chattel was making a bid in mid-stretch when he went down. Life Mission, who was 14 lengths back in the early going, closed well to finish second. Sovereign Impact was third across the wire, another two lengths back. Once he was disqualified, Blame the Frog, another filly, was placed third. They were followed by Cardinal Coach Mac, Mine Inspector, Faraway Kitten, Perfect Answer and Carter Cat.
The winner was bred in Kentucky by Spendthrift Farm and is owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey. She's a daughter of Liaison out of Envious Moon, by Malibu Moon. Midnight Romance's share of the purse was$296,800, pushing her career earnings to $358,800.
Backers of Moonlight Romance, the 8-5 favorite, were paid $5.20 to win, $3.40 to place and $3.00 to show.
Winning trainer Wesley Ward: “We’re going to prep them all now at Royal Ascot and bring them to Ky Downs, the way it is working out. I had a lot of confidence in her going to the Royal Ascot race. Mr. Ramsey has a yearning desire to win over there, and I was second the first year we went with Cannonball. Of all the ones I ever brought since, this is the one I thought would win. Unfortunately there was a horse that lost a shoe. There are so many things that can go wrong before, even during the race. But there was a filly that lost a shoe in the paddock, so she was walking behind the gate with 27 other horses for about 20 minutes and she just sort of got hot and nervous and the gate opened and she got left at the gate and forget it. Fortunately for us today, she rebounded and won a big purse for Mr. Ramsey and we’re on to the Breeders’ Cup now (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint).”
“She kind of relishes the time between races. She’s run enough now that she knows what she’s doing. Even though this might not be a ‘win and you’re in,’ she got a lot of money. She won a big race at Belmont in the spring breaking her maiden and now this. I think it would warrant her getting in money wise. We’ll sit down and talk to Mr. Ramsey but if it were up to me I’d certainly like to train her up to it.”
Winning jockey Jose Ortiz: “It was perfect. She broke good. She was on the lead for a little bit then the 4 horse rushed through it. I just sat off her a little bit, when I was ready to make my move, she was there for me the entire time. Nice filly.”
Ben Colebrook, trainer of runner-up Life Mission and fourth-place (moved up to third) Blame the Frog: “We’ll take it. Not a bad day. I wish we could have gotten black type for the filly but she ran big. Six and a half with the up hill might be a little bit too far for her. But I think when we shorten her up to 5 1/2 on the turf, she certainly looked like she liked the grass. We’ll figure out somewhere to go with her. She’s danced every dance. She’s a nice filly and she’s holding her weight.”
On Life Mission in his US debut: “He ran a monster race. I don’t know if wins, but I think it would have been a horse race if that horse doesn’t go down in front of him. He absolutely flew home, and nobody is really coming from out of it, it doesn’t look like. He looks like a horse with a big future.” (Thinks might go next in a stakes at Keeneland). “I think he’ll go farther.”
Florent Geroux, on runner-up Life Mission: “He ran good. He was a little behind in the beginning, but he was coming running. When the horse went down, he showed a little bit of hesitation, when he saw the horse inside him go down, he kind of stopped for a couple of strides and went on again. I probably would have been second no matter what but I think we should have finished a lot closer.”